Environmental review inadequate without first repealing Harper-era changes, says Elizabeth May

(OTTAWA) June 20, 2016 Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands), released the following statement regarding the federal government’s announcement today to consult stakeholders before making changes to the Environmental Assessment (EA) process: 

“When it comes to environmental assessment, Canadians are still living under Stephen Harper’s broken rules. The former government repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, brought in under the Mulroney administration, and changed the EA from a predictable, professional process to a dog’s breakfast of wildly disparate review standards,” Ms. May said. 

“I vigorously opposed the idea of a drawn-out consultation without first repealing the devastating changes made to environmental assessment in omnibus budget bills of 2012: Bill C-38 and Bill C-45. C-38 gutted the Federal Fisheries Act and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, while C-45 removed federal environmental protection for 95 per cent of Canada’s lakes and rivers under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

“But instead of returning Canada to some semblance of a reputable EA process, the government is choosing to continue with a broken system while it consults stakeholders,” Ms. May said. “There’s no reason Parliament cannot restore the pre-Harper legislation, and then move to consultation to further improve the process. In fairness to the new government, I know it was urged to take this long, drawn-out approach by some of the country’s major environmental groups. That too is very disappointing.”

“The longer these bad laws remain, the more new energy projects start at the front end of a potentially un-fixable and unfair process. 

“In other areas, such as labour law and immigration, regressive changes by the previous government have already been reversed. But rather than fix the omnibus budget bill damage, three different Ministers – in Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, and Fisheries and Oceans – are approaching changes in different manners, and none of it urgently,” Ms. May said. 

“We need to return to an independent environmental assessment process, and restore the National Energy Board, the Atlantic Canadian offshore petroleum boards, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to their regulatory status. Temporary add-on measures, such as the three-member panel charged with reviewing Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline project, while well-intentioned, are inadequate while operating under this badly broken environmental assessment process,” Ms. May concluded.