Navigable waters will not trigger an impact assessment

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I heard my friend’s comments loud and clear with respect to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Canada had the legislation since 1867, originally under our first prime minister. It remained virtually unchanged until the very significant changes in 2012.

My friend and I will disagree. The omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45 in the fall of 2012, really did damage to our ability to protect navigable waters across Canada. This version in Bill C-69 represents a real improvement. The tragedy is that although the Minister of Transport has done a really good job in repairing that damage, because the impact assessment law does not create a requirement for a review of permits being given by the Minister of Transport, the whole system remains rather shattered, as it was by the budget bill and Bill C-38.

Has she looked at the definition and not recognized that this new definition in Bill C-69 does in fact take into account that waterways that can be used only part of the year and are not actually used for human navigation will not trigger any governmental involvement in navigable waters?

Kelly Block Member for Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek

Mr. Speaker, we would have noted this. A schedule was put in place when the previous government made changes to the act. What the current government has done is kept the schedule and has now indicated that every other waterway will also be subject to the same regulations as the waterways on the schedule. Therefore, it begs the question as to why we have a schedule if it will encompass every waterway in the country.

I will quote what my colleague, who was the lead on this bill made, had to say: “The proposed Impact Assessment Act adds a new planning phase that extends consultations and provides the Minister with the power to kill a project before it has been evaluated based on science.” It gives the minister the discretion to add whatever waterways to the schedule even though it seems a little redundant should he choose to use that discretion.