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Feds set Canada back 50 years on environment regulations:critics

But government says ‘responsible resource development is a cornerstone’ of the budget.

Photograph by Jake Wright, The Hill Times
Environment Minister Peter Kent, left, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, right.

The government is setting Canada back at least 50 years in its quest to dismantle environmental regulations, say opposition MPs. 

“[Prime Minister Stephen Harper is] destroying decades worth of environmental law and policy that’s been developed sensibly,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) told The Hill Times last week.
“Most of the legislation he’s destroying was put forward and passed by Brian Mulroney so it’s not a left, right or centre issue. It’s a question of do you understand the need to have sensible public policy developed while having respect for environmental protection. Clearly, Stephen Harper regards the environment as in his way.”

A Forum Research poll for The Hill Times last week found that 59 per cent of Canadians believe the government has put oil and gas companies’ interests above those of Canadians. Only 15 per cent agreed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) was putting the interests of Canadians over those of oil and gas companies. In addition, the poll found that 63 per cent of Canadians do not trust the government to do what’s best for Canada with respect to the environment. Twenty-nine per cent of Canadians do trust the government on this front, the majority of which are in Alberta. The majority of Quebecers (76 per cent) do not trust the government when it comes to the environment. Further, the poll, conducted with 1,744 people between April 24 and 25, found that 54 per cent of Canadians oppose the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. When it comes to handing more authority to provinces to conduct environmental assessments, respondents were evenly split, with 41 per cent supporting and 40 per cent opposing. The survey is accurate 2.4 per cent 19 times out of 20. 

“There’s a lot of bad news for the government in this poll, as they come off of one of their worst months since the election. It’s clear Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s personal image has suffered, and he’ll need to rebuild the trust he’s lost before the next election,” said Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff.

The government introduced its Budget Implementation Bill last Thursday, Bill C-38. It is 452 pages and contains a large section that will significantly change the environmental regulatory regime. Among several issues to implement measures found in the budget and not mentioned in the budget, the omnibus Bill C-38 repeals Bill C-288, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, a private member’s bill passed in 2007 to keep the government accountable on implementing measures to meet the Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction levels. 

Bill C-38 also repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and enacts a new one, which allows the environment minister to determine if environmental assessments are necessary for certain resource development projects. The bill also aims to reduce duplicate environmental assessments and allows the federal government to defer to provincial assessments if one is available. In addition, it amends the National Energy Board Act to allow Cabinet to make decisions on potential new “major pipelines” and limit regulatory reviews to two years. The bill gives the National Energy Board authority over “navigation in respect of pipelines and power lines that cross navigable waters.” 

The Budget Implementation Bill also changes the Fisheries Act to focus on protecting only fish that “support commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries.”

Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Ont.), her party’s environment critic, said these changes are “devastating,” but are part of the Conservative government’s long-term strategy to fast track development at environmental cost. 

“This has been going on since last summer. Last summer they wanted to cut 700 scientists from Environment Canada. Then we had cuts of 43 per cent to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Then they wanted to reduce ozone monitoring. We have two major global air issues, one is climate change, one is ozone. After they discover in the spring the largest two million square kilometer ozone hole over the arctic, this is not the time to cut ozone monitoring. Then our country walks way from Kyoto,” she told The Hill Times last week. “Then we heard there’s going to be 200 cuts to Environment Canada scientists. The National Roundtable is gone, so we’re getting rid of out scientists, we’re getting rid of our critics through changes to Revenue. We’re gutting environmental legislation that’s there to protect the health and safety of Canadians. This government is taking us back 50 years. If you get rid of scientists, if you get rid of the critics, if you gut the legislation, what’s to stand in the way of environmental disaster?”

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.) said last week that the government is burying the amendments in the Budget Implementation Bill because “they’re trouble or embarrassed or wrong.” He said the changes should be in its own legislation instead of glossed over through a budget debate. 

“They’re prepared to throw everything under the bus. It’s very frustrating because it’s frankly, undemocratic. It’s attempting to silence the voices of anyone who happens to disagree with the government’s rigid ideology,” he said. “It’s becoming increasingly typical. If it could stand on its own merits and it was something the government was proud of, they would make it its own legislation.”

Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski (Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, Sask.) said, however, that opposition is just up to its regular “spin fantasies” on the government’s environmental agenda. 

“The opposition is always going to try to continue to spin fantasies about what we’re trying to do on the environment. The reality is that the budget implementation act contains many pieces of legislation with respect to various departments. That’s normal and we’ll debate them as we move forward,” he said, noting he hopes the opposition will allow debate on Bill C-38 to move forward smoothly.

Carly Wolff, press secretary to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.), wrote in an email to reporters last week that the amendments were not buried as “responsible resource development is a cornerstone” of the budget. “It is routine for such measures to be included in the budget legislation,” she said, noting the government will create a subcommittee to specifically study the “responsible resource development” aspects of the bill.

“Responsible resource development will streamline the review process for major economic projects by providing predictable timelines for project approvals. It will prevent long delays that kill potential jobs and stall economic growth by putting valuable investment at risk,” Ms. Wolff said. “Most importantly, responsible resource development will create good, skilled, well-paying jobs in cities and communities across Canada, while maintaining the highest possible standards for protecting the environment.”

bvongdou@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times


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Feds set Canada back 50 years on environment regulations:critics

But government says ‘responsible resource development is a cornerstone’ of the budget.

Photograph by Jake Wright, The Hill Times
Environment Minister Peter Kent, left, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, right.

The government is setting Canada back at least 50 years in its quest to dismantle environmental regulations, say opposition MPs. 

“[Prime Minister Stephen Harper is] destroying decades worth of environmental law and policy that’s been developed sensibly,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) told The Hill Times last week.
“Most of the legislation he’s destroying was put forward and passed by Brian Mulroney so it’s not a left, right or centre issue. It’s a question of do you understand the need to have sensible public policy developed while having respect for environmental protection. Clearly, Stephen Harper regards the environment as in his way.”

A Forum Research poll for The Hill Times last week found that 59 per cent of Canadians believe the government has put oil and gas companies’ interests above those of Canadians. Only 15 per cent agreed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) was putting the interests of Canadians over those of oil and gas companies. In addition, the poll found that 63 per cent of Canadians do not trust the government to do what’s best for Canada with respect to the environment. Twenty-nine per cent of Canadians do trust the government on this front, the majority of which are in Alberta. The majority of Quebecers (76 per cent) do not trust the government when it comes to the environment. Further, the poll, conducted with 1,744 people between April 24 and 25, found that 54 per cent of Canadians oppose the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. When it comes to handing more authority to provinces to conduct environmental assessments, respondents were evenly split, with 41 per cent supporting and 40 per cent opposing. The survey is accurate 2.4 per cent 19 times out of 20. 

“There’s a lot of bad news for the government in this poll, as they come off of one of their worst months since the election. It’s clear Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s personal image has suffered, and he’ll need to rebuild the trust he’s lost before the next election,” said Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff.

The government introduced its Budget Implementation Bill last Thursday, Bill C-38. It is 452 pages and contains a large section that will significantly change the environmental regulatory regime. Among several issues to implement measures found in the budget and not mentioned in the budget, the omnibus Bill C-38 repeals Bill C-288, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, a private member’s bill passed in 2007 to keep the government accountable on implementing measures to meet the Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction levels. 

Bill C-38 also repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and enacts a new one, which allows the environment minister to determine if environmental assessments are necessary for certain resource development projects. The bill also aims to reduce duplicate environmental assessments and allows the federal government to defer to provincial assessments if one is available. In addition, it amends the National Energy Board Act to allow Cabinet to make decisions on potential new “major pipelines” and limit regulatory reviews to two years. The bill gives the National Energy Board authority over “navigation in respect of pipelines and power lines that cross navigable waters.” 

The Budget Implementation Bill also changes the Fisheries Act to focus on protecting only fish that “support commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries.”

Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Ont.), her party’s environment critic, said these changes are “devastating,” but are part of the Conservative government’s long-term strategy to fast track development at environmental cost. 

“This has been going on since last summer. Last summer they wanted to cut 700 scientists from Environment Canada. Then we had cuts of 43 per cent to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Then they wanted to reduce ozone monitoring. We have two major global air issues, one is climate change, one is ozone. After they discover in the spring the largest two million square kilometer ozone hole over the arctic, this is not the time to cut ozone monitoring. Then our country walks way from Kyoto,” she told The Hill Times last week. “Then we heard there’s going to be 200 cuts to Environment Canada scientists. The National Roundtable is gone, so we’re getting rid of out scientists, we’re getting rid of our critics through changes to Revenue. We’re gutting environmental legislation that’s there to protect the health and safety of Canadians. This government is taking us back 50 years. If you get rid of scientists, if you get rid of the critics, if you gut the legislation, what’s to stand in the way of environmental disaster?”

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.) said last week that the government is burying the amendments in the Budget Implementation Bill because “they’re trouble or embarrassed or wrong.” He said the changes should be in its own legislation instead of glossed over through a budget debate. 

“They’re prepared to throw everything under the bus. It’s very frustrating because it’s frankly, undemocratic. It’s attempting to silence the voices of anyone who happens to disagree with the government’s rigid ideology,” he said. “It’s becoming increasingly typical. If it could stand on its own merits and it was something the government was proud of, they would make it its own legislation.”

Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski (Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, Sask.) said, however, that opposition is just up to its regular “spin fantasies” on the government’s environmental agenda. 

“The opposition is always going to try to continue to spin fantasies about what we’re trying to do on the environment. The reality is that the budget implementation act contains many pieces of legislation with respect to various departments. That’s normal and we’ll debate them as we move forward,” he said, noting he hopes the opposition will allow debate on Bill C-38 to move forward smoothly.

Carly Wolff, press secretary to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.), wrote in an email to reporters last week that the amendments were not buried as “responsible resource development is a cornerstone” of the budget. “It is routine for such measures to be included in the budget legislation,” she said, noting the government will create a subcommittee to specifically study the “responsible resource development” aspects of the bill.

“Responsible resource development will streamline the review process for major economic projects by providing predictable timelines for project approvals. It will prevent long delays that kill potential jobs and stall economic growth by putting valuable investment at risk,” Ms. Wolff said. “Most importantly, responsible resource development will create good, skilled, well-paying jobs in cities and communities across Canada, while maintaining the highest possible standards for protecting the environment.”

bvongdou@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

  

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Friday, February 27, 2015
HILL LIFE & PEOPLE SLIDESHOWS
Hill media, staffers send off PMO's Jason MacDonald at the Métropolitain Brasserie's bar Feb. 20, 2015

The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
Bloomberg's Theo Argitis and PMO chief of staff Ray Novak.
The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
The PMO's outgoing Director of Communications Jason MacDonald.
The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
PMO executive assistant Stephen Staley, PMO special assistant Myles Atwood, and Tory Party national campaign manager Jenni Byrne.
The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
PMO deputy chief of staff Howard Anglin and Postmedia's Stephen Maher.
The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
The Ottawa Citizen's Jason Fekete with the man of the hour, Jason MacDonald.
The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
The Toronto Star's Tonda MacCharles.
The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
CBC's Chris Hall and Melissa Lantsman, Finance Minister Joe Oliver's director of communications.
The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright
Michael White, Finance Minister Joe Oliver's policy director.

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