Motion tabled in House of Commons today would restore key safeguards Canadians voted for in 2015, environmental lawyers say
VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – Environmental lawyers commend the federal government for its latest efforts to preserve important aspects of Bill C-69, including many of the key safeguards that the Trudeau government promised voters in the 2015 election.
The government tabled a motion early this morning in response to controversial amendments put forward by the Senate. The motion – which accepts 62 of the Senate amendments, rejects 130 and amends over 40 – concedes some ground while rejecting amendments that would undermine the fairness, climate and sustainability goals of the bill.
“The Senate amendments would have gutted Bill C-69,” said Anna Johnston, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association. “Canadians voted for environmental reviews they can trust. They voted for an energy regulator that works for them rather than Big Oil, and for the restoration of protection to Canada’s waters. It is concerning that an unelected Senate would undermine voters’ wishes.”
On June 6, the Senate completed its third reading of Bill C-69 and sent it to the House with nearly 250 amendments, including ones taken directly from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The House motion rejects many amendments that environmental groups say would have made the bill even worse than the current laws, such as amendments that would have imposed a standing test on public participation and greatly restricted the ability to assess a project’s climate impacts.
“It is critical to remember why we have Bill C-69 in the first place,” Johnston said. “Our existing assessment law was written by the oil and gas lobby to rubber-stamp massive projects that have significant environmental and human health risks, and that undermine our ability to tackle climate change. But it blew up in their faces, in the form of protests and lawsuits. Canadians demand a right to be heard, and demand regulators and processes they can trust.”
Among the new revisions proposed by the House is an ability for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to enact regulations respecting regional and strategic assessments. Johnston says these types of assessments can alleviate some of the pressures of project-by-project assessment, but she cautions against relying only on regional assessments while giving individual project proponents a free ride.
“The Senate amendments put us back to square one, or worse,” said Johnston. “This Bill is about protecting Canadians, and the environment they depend on, against the consequences of short-term thinking. The Senate needs to realize that.”
MPs will debate the Bill C-69 motion this week in the House of Commons, then the bill will be sent back with a message to the Senate. The Senate must then decide whether to accept the proposed amendments from the House.
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Anna Johnston│Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law Association