Senate Finance Committee votes against gutting Environmental Assessment laws

Urgent Update - July 13, 2010: Last Thursday the Senate National Finance Committee heeded the call of West Coast Environmental Law and other conservation groups by cutting provisions from federal budget bill C-9 that would have seriously weakened Canada's environmental assessment law. West Coast had been a leader in the Canada-wide push over several months to have these damaging sections deleted from the budget, and last week, we testified at the Senate committee reviewing the bill.

The victory was short lived.

On Monday, July 13 the full Senate voted to put the harmful sections that weaken environmental assessment back into the budget bill. While the opposition parties and independent senators voted to protect environmental law, there were not enough of them present to win against the senators on the government side. The budget received royal assent and became law late on Monday night.

Now our attention turns to the Parliamentary review of the Canadian
Environmental Assessment Act in the fall. We will be asking Parliament to fix the damage that was done last night, and to improve the law so that it better protects Canada's environment and so that climate change is a mandatory consideration in decision-making about projects that impact on the environment.

Original July 8th Blog Post Below:

The federal government’s efforts to gut the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) through amendments hidden in the government’s budget bill hit a wall today, when the Senate Finance Committee voted to remove those amendments from the bill.  West Coast Environmental Law has been on the forefront of the campaign against these amendments and, indeed, Josh Paterson, one of our staff lawyers, testified before the Senate Finance Committee on July 6th asking them to take this action.  Congratulations to the Senate Finance Committee. 

This fight is not over.  Next the Senate as a whole will get to vote on which version of the Act it will be considering.  And, even if the Senate rejects the amendments to CEAA, the bill will go back to the House of Commons, where the amendments may be reincorporated into the Bill.  However, the sneaky, back-door approach to these amendments is now out in the open – and the brakes have been applied to Prime Minister Harper’s efforts to amend CEAA. 

As Josh said to the Senate Finance Committee:

The provisions in Part 20 of the bill are clearly aimed at gutting the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.  They have nothing to do with the budget and have no business being there.  … [N]one of the changes appear to be in accordance with the purposes of the act, which include ensuring that projects are considered in a careful and precautionary manner so that they do not cause significant adverse environmental affects.

Click here to view Josh’s complete testimony to the Senate Finance Committee. 

If you support West Coast’s work to protect CEAA and to expose this back-door attempt to amend one of Canada’s most important environmental laws, please donate now.  Your donation will help us continue this important work.