Government disappoints with environmental protections legislation

(OTTAWA) February 8, 2018 — Elizabeth May is disappointed by the Liberal government’s failure to repair the serious damage caused by Harper-era omnibus budget bills C-38 and C-45, which gutted crucial environmental protections.

The government’s own omnibus bill — An Act to Enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts — tabled in the House of Commons today not only ignores many of the recommendations from the government’s expert panels, it also breaks important election promises that helped bring the Liberals to power.

“This legislation should never have come forward as an omnibus bill,” said Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “This is a bizarre hybrid — part Harper, part Trudeau and totally inappropriate to the important task of restoring the environmental protections that we lost in 2012.

“Prime Minister Trudeau promised to fix what Harper broke — and he hasn’t done that. While some of the changes to Environmental Assessment mark an improvement on former Prime Minister Harper’s bill C-38 — such as greater public engagement and Indigenous consultation — the legislation falls far short of returning us to the environmental standards in place before Harper came to power. It is not clear what projects will be covered under the new legislation, which provides for a process that is far more political.

“The Trudeau administration is allowing the National Energy Board, now named the Canadian Energy Regulator, and the offshore petroleum boards to remain part of the environmental review process, even though that constitutes a blatant conflict of interest. Even worse than under Harper, Trudeau’s government has given a significant role in any review panel to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board although their mandate compels them to expand offshore oil and gas development.

“The navigable waters section of the bill holds out hope that protections will be restored for some of the waterways that were left vulnerable under Harper. But it provides for a strange and convoluted process whereby it must be proved that a waterway is used by humans for navigation before it can be added to the protected list.”

“A disturbing trend has emerged over halfway through the Liberal government’s mandate,” said Ms May. “This government spends millions of dollars consulting Canadians and commissioning expert panels, and then largely ignores the input it receives. Meanwhile, promise after promise is broken, fuelling cynicism towards politics among Canadians. We deserve accountability, and our environment requires adequate protections,” concluded Ms. May.