Unpacking the budget bill

by Aaron Wherry

As noted yesterday, the budget implementation bill tabled yesterday by the Conservatives numbers 431 pages of legislation. Included therein: changes to food regulation, an overhaul of environmental regulations, the repeal of climate change accountability legislation, changes to the protection of fish habitats and the elimination of the CSIS inspector general.

Speaking to reporters after QP yesterday, Nathan Cullen, the new opposition House leader, was unimpressed.

They are doing this simply to curry favour with their best friends in the oil patch.  This is all about pipelines.  This is about projects that don’t have the merit on their own to stand up to Canadian law. So what they’re doing is destroying Canadian law.  The part of the Fisheries Act that is being destroyed here is the most significant environmental protection that we have.  It applies to just about everything that we do and it now puts essentially an open gate on every project that the oil industry wants to put forward. It’s fundamental. And the fact that they bury it deep within a budget implementation bill shows that the government knows that on the surface Canadians will not tolerate this, would not allow even a debate …  

If Canadians knew the truth of what’s hiding in the depths of this bill, they would be outraged. Now I’m not talking about one part of the political spectrum. I think this goes right across the board that people who like to fish, who like to hunt, people who like to have a clean environment are going to be deeply concerned with a government that won’t even have a discussion or a debate about changing fundamentally the way that we approach protecting our environment. It’s hugely dangerous and quite offensive to me as a Canadian.

Elizabeth May was equally concerned.

In terms of parliamentary procedure, this is a very clever move that deprives any of the substantial elements of legislation from ever going before a committee with specialized knowledge in this area. So by taking the Fisheries Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, plus the National Energy Board Act and numerous other acts, and putting them in one bill of 420 pages to go to a finance committee, this bill, it is simply impossible that the provisions of this legislation will ever be adequately examined before they enter into law plus they’ve repealed the Kyoto Implementation Act, they’re repealing the National Roundtable Act, this is all in one big piece of disastrous legislation for the environment.

In a note to reporters yesterday afternoon, the press secretary to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said that while it was “routine” for legislation such as the government’s “Responsible Resource Development” legislation to be included in the budget bill, “we will create a special sub-committee to study the Responsible Resource Development legislation.”

Unpacking the budget bill

  1. I would be quite surprised if most if not all of the crossings of waterways (rivers, streams etc) are not drilled and the pipe pulled through the drilled hole, temp bridges built. Years ago, this was not the case – “open cutting” (trenching) cause major disruptions.

    As far as pipelines are concerned, I think the reaction to the changes are a bit misplaced.

    • Then why bother changing or gutting the fisheries act? Reducing the oversight? And this would not address the risk of sending two pipelines through terrain that is subject to both avalanch and seimic activity. Let’s not even mention the ludicrous decision to bring tankers in and out of Kitimat at the proposed rate of 3 or 4 a week year round.

      • I qualified by suggesting pipelines – the point that Cullen was raising. Yes, there still are legit concerns regarding emissions from mines (tailings ponds) into waterways.

        There is also a legit argument that there is duplication of effort at prov and fed level, and that approval/rejection needs to be speeded up. Overlap/jurisd should be on a case by case basis.

        Re: tanker traffic. Correct me if I’m wrong, but has DFO not already approved in principle tanker traffic for Northern Gateway?

        Re: Seismic activity etc. Pipelines are designed and approved by professional engineers, regulated by their respective provincial agencies, and whose uppermost responsibilities are safety. They can be held personally responsible. Part of this would include designing in automatic isolation valves at key locations to limit spills if something catastrophic occurred.

        • Dot you must be aware that most provincial ERs are almost waved though. And while i’m sure the system needs a tweek, going down to just the provincial review in many cases is not the way to go, as most provinces do not have the resources the feds have, and there is the issue of trans provincial effects – as in the NWT dealing with down stream oil sands effluent.I’ve heard some good argument for maintaining joint but slimmed down ERs.
          Please don’t cite DFO as a credible objective source, they are a standing joke in BC. Besides i believe it was the CG or TC who made the approval. If you are interested i could post some interesting local reaction to that process.

          • I’ve worked on pipeline projects in both AB (AEUB/ERCB) and BC (BC OGC). So, no I’m not “aware that most provincial ERs are almost waved though.”

            I also remember in the early 90′s, BC Gas (the then name of the utility) was looking to drill some exploratory gas wells for potential gas storage in the Lower Mainland. You’d think they were building a nuclear bomb based upon the local reaction and opposition. Some of it is ignorance/unfamiliarity of the technology – some of it is just plain opposition for opposition’s sake. Not to diminish legit concerns, tho.

          • Do you access to any sort of data on major ER approvals in say BC or AB in the last 20 years or so. I’d be open to being proved wrong, but i think they’d show a marked propensity for a green light. Understandable really. There must be enormous pressure on provincil govts to bring in more revenue. All the more reason for retaining a sober second opinion or at least a joint overview.

          • Late 80s/early 90s – BC Hydro (crown corporation – so same as Socred gov’t) plans to flood major tracks of land on Peace River upstream of Fort St John and put in a hydroelectric dam.

            Due to opposition, implemented PowerSmart (demand side programs) in BC early 90s. Plans were shelved for many years, but may be back on the burner now – not sure of current status.

            It appears to be called “Site C” – here is page
            http://www.bchydro.com/energy_in_bc/projects/site_c.html

          • thx

  2. “Wolff said the legislation would help prevent long delays “that kill potential jobs and stall economic growth by putting valuable investment at risk.” She also said it would create “skilled, well-paying jobs” across Canada, while maintaining the highest possible standards for protecting the environment.”

    Conclusion cannot possibly match premise here. Kafka would be envious of the sophism contained within this remark, within the whole budget process.
    Essentially:
    ‘We must fast track the process and remove regulatory burdens for the good of the resource indust, er…national economy. But we will at the same time improve enviromental protections. That is why we shoving it all into one “routine” bill…and by the way we will set up a sub commitee for the moaners and goaners.”

    If Ms May is even half right we have a problem Houston. Can they not see this will ensure we have enviromental radicals and front line activism out there if it goes through unammended? They are going to create a self fulfilling prophecy – drive otherwise reasonable people out onto the road blocks and protest lines. Even middle aged, comfort loving, idle bastards like me will take steps to see this is actively opposed. This is simply stoking the fires of radicalism in this country and these clowns don’t give a toss about it.

  3. C’mon now opposition parties. This is the time for the NDP/libs/greens to pool resources and work together. Why not launch a massive national ad blitz jointly signed off on by all three party leaders to inform Canadians of what this govt proposes to force through with little or no parliamentary scrutiny or chance to ammend Take a page out of Harper’s book, it is the sort of thing he would do.

  4. And so …… Canadian Politics again, rears its stupid head. If the Conservatives, who currently enjoy a majority Government, inflame the anger of Canadians by passing Bill C-38 and sneak in a lot of other legislation that should be properly debated, they too, will slide into the dust bin of Canadian history. Then …. the pundits of their party will be asking themselves, “Where did we go wrong and how did we allow this to happen?” It is almost humorous! But then what the hell do I know? I am just one citizen with a vote.

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