Elizabeth May Comments on Bill C-38 Budget Implementation

Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, is 420 pages. Most has nothing to do with fiscal matters or what a budget is supposed to do.

By putting all this in the Budget Implementation (Bill C-38) means that none of the environmental laws being changed will ever go to Environment committee or hear from environmental experts. Nine environmental laws are changed. (I can’t think of any environmental law that isn’t touched.)

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) gets the biggest wallop. (P. 31-98).

The Act is repealed. It is entirely replaced (a 79 page Act shrinks to a 40 page Act). It creates a new scheme for review. The scope is incredibly narrow — only those elements of environment under “legislative authority of Parliament” are assessed — so “environmental effects” defined as fish, aquatic species, and migratory birds. No other species or ecosystems, nor health, socio-economic, physical or cultural heritage and other elements in current definition of “environmental effects.”

The Agency will, on receiving a complete application, within 45 days decide if ANY environmental assessment is required.

Environmental reviews are no longer required for projects involving federal money. Very large levels of discretion to Minister to decide if there should be a panel.

The largest problem, as expected, is the new equivalency rules — agreements with any province to leave Environmental Assessment to them.

There are also retroactive sections, setting the clock at July 2010 for existing projects.

Fisheries Act also guts previous habitat provisions. (P 149) and identifies the important fish as “commercial, Aboriginal and recreational” and the fish that support that fishery. The biggest problem is the creation of equivalency so that the Act and its regs “do not apply in the province.”

The National Energy Board (NEB) absorbs the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) whenever a pipeline crosses navigable waters. And the NWPA is amended to say a pipeline is not a “work” within that Act. The NEB Act is also amended to (as expected) put Cabinet in a superior position to over-rule its decisions.

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) is also amended to allow the NEB to permit activities that kill or harm endangered species (p.181).

The charities sections now preclude “gift the making of which is a political activity.”(P. 6) Foreign charities can only provide funds to Canadian charities if the Minister is satisfied the foreign organization is “carrying on relief activities in response to a disaster, providing urgent humanitarian aid, or carrying on activities in the national interest of Canada.”