Offshore drilling east of Newfoundland & Labrador

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson

Minister of Environment and Climate Change

House of Commons

K1A 0A4

April 30, 2020

RE: Consultation Submission on the Ministerial Regulatory Proposal to Designate Offshore Exploratory Drilling East of Newfoundland and Labrador for Exclusion under the Impact Assessment Act

 Dear Minister Wilkinson,

I am writing today to provide feedback on the proposed regulation which would exclude offshore exploratory drilling east of Newfoundland and Labrador from assessments under the Impact Assessment Act (IAA). I am very grateful for this consultation opportunity.

This consultation ignores the elephant in the room. Neither the Canada- Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board nor the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) should have any role in environmental assessments (EAs). Prior to 2012, they never did. The Harper administration’s CEAA 2012 put the National Energy Board, the Canada Nuclear Safety Commission, and offshore boards in the position of running EAs. The Liberal 2015 platform pledged to repair environmental review. The EA expert panel convened by your predecessor, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, strongly recommended that these regulators have no role. Yet, C-69 continued to give these regulators roles as members of panels, and in the case of the offshore boards, through an amendment, are allowed to chair a panel.

This proposal, like the regional EA on which it is based, completely ignores this large and, in my view, insurmountable problem: The C-NLOPB has a conflict of interest because of its mission to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. Although the federal environmental assessment process is deeply flawed, excluding a federal assessment would further lessen transparency between the oil and gas industry and the Canadian public. Below, I explain my views in greater detail.

Exclusion of Climate Change Considerations in the Regional Assessment

I was pleased to review the regional assessment and see that it was very comprehensive. However, I am still firmly opposed to excluding offshore exploratory drilling east of Newfoundland and Labrador from assessments under the IAA, because the regional assessment ignored a key consideration: climate change

It is irresponsible to exclude the consideration of climate change when conducting an environmental assessment. Climate change is Canada’s single greatest threat, and without studying the impacts of offshore drilling on Canada’s carbon emissions, the regional assessment — comprehensive as it may be — is useless.

C-NLOPB’s Conflict of Interest

The Atlantic Accord, which outlines the C-NLOPB’s mandate, states that its primary purpose is: “a) to provide for the development of oil and gas resources offshore Newfoundland for the benefit of Canada as a whole and Newfoundland and Labrador in particular”.

Clearly, a regulatory board whose mandate is to provide for the development of oil and gas cannot at the same time be the board who reviews whether a project has met the environmental assessment requirements.

It is exactly this conflict of interest that led to the largest oil spill in Newfoundland’s history, which was deemed “impossible to clean up.” The Husky Energy spill was preventable, but the body that oversees regulations cannot be the same body that promotes project expansion.

Transparency to the Canadian Public

While I lament the federal environmental assessment process, I still think that in this context, two environmental assessments are better than one. Not only because the IAA may pick up on an issue that the regional assessment didn’t pick up on — such as climate change considerations — but also for the media and public attention a federal environmental assessment tends to garner. It is in the best interest of our democracy that the public is familiar with the undertakings of their government.

It would be cynical to suppose that the government wants to exclude offshore oil and gas projects from federal review because of this, therefore I will not suppose it. Instead, I hope that this is merely an oversight of the government, and that you will re-consider your proposed regulation.

Thank you for your consideration.


Elizabeth May, O.C.

Member of Parliament

Saanich-Gulf Islands

Parliamentary Leader of the Green Party of Canada