Director, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
RE: PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE REGULATIONS DESIGNATING PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES UNDER THE CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ACT, 2012
May 20th, 2013
Dear Mr. McCauley:
The following comments are submitted as a response to the government’s call for comments on the Regulations Amending the Regulations Designating Physical Activities under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012), which were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I: Notices and Proposed Regulations, Vol. 147, No. 16, on April 20th, 2013.
Before commenting on the nature of the new changes, I would like to echo comments made by environmental groups and other concerned parties regarding the Conservative administration’s absolute disregard for public and parliamentary input on the new legislative framework for federal environmental assessment. CEAA 2012 and the current regulations came into force on July 6th, 2012. Comments on the regulations were only solicited after the regulations were promulgated, thereby precluding any meaningful public participation in their formulation. This objectionable approach simply reflected and amplified the shockingly antidemocratic and authoritarian manner in which the new act was fast-tracked through Parliament, buried within 425 pages of omnibus budget implementation legislation. In my capacity as an MP and leader of the Green Party, I opposed the repealing of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and its replacement with a whole new federal environmental assessment regime in Bill C-38. However, I made a good faith effort in the circumstances to correct the deficiencies of the legislation. Of the 302 substantive, policy-oriented amendments that I drafted to the bill, over a hundred were directed at improving CEAA 2012. Even though I was mindful of heeding the executive’s stated objectives, keeping the new timelines for project reviews intact, not one of my amendments was considered by the government.
In the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement accompanying the draft amendments, it is stated that “the Regulations must be designed in consideration of the structure of CEAA 2012. “ Unfortunately, this banal statement of the status quo only hints at the gravity of the situation. The discussion throughout the impact statement about striking a ‘balance’ between projects listed in the Regulations that have ‘low or limited potential for significant adverse environmental effects’ and those that have a high potential does not properly account for the dramatically restricted scope and compromised nature of the new act. “Environmental effects’ under the new Act are limited to effects on fish, aquatic species under the Species at Risk Act, and migratory birds. As Robert Gibson of Waterloo University put it, “the narrow definition of ‘environmental effects ‘ and the narrow focus on particular matters of federal mandate mean that even in a case where significant adverse environmental effects were identified, these effects would represent only a fraction of the overall biophysical implications of the proposed project [...] Without expansion of this agenda, CEAA 2012 would cease to be an environmental assessment law –it would be little more than an information gathering exercise for permitting other federal decisions in a limited set of areas where the federal government chooses to act” [i] Any serious consideration of achieving effective and efficient environmental assessment has to go beyond the focus on questions of ‘balancing’ the project list and ministerial designation and involve redrafting the framework of the act.
Barring the complete redrafting of CEAA 2012, my immediate concerns with the regulations amending the regulations may be summarized as follows:
In my view, any projects involving federal funds, federal lands or requiring a permit from a federal authority should be added to the project list.
Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada
[i] Robert G. Gibson, “What would remain? Notes on the key substantive changes to federal environmental assessment in the proposed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 included in the omnibus legislation budget implementation C-38” (draft paper, 16 May 2012). Accessed 20 May 2013.