If you follow Canadian politics, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about the controversial Bill C-69. This bill, along with Bill C-48, the Clean Fuel Standards (CFS) and other legislation that’s currently being introduced by the federal government may just sound the death knell for Canada’s natural resource sector if made law.
Like Bill C-48 – the tanker ban legislation which was voted down by the Senate Committee of Transportation – Bill C-69 is so flawed it doesn’t just need amendments, but should be voted down by the Canadian Senate and suffer the same fate as its cousin Bill C-48.
Here’s three major flaws we see with Bill C-69, and why any Canadian who understands how important our our natural resource sector is to our country should be concerned with this dangerous piece of legislation.
- 75+ Quotes & Tweets: Canadians Against Bill C-48 & Bill C-69
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#1 – Bill C-69 Allows Anyone to Join Public Hearings & Cause More Delays
At a time when Canada needs to retain all the investor certainty and funds it can, Bill C-69 threatens to make things worse. We’ve seen delay after delay with projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which if it weren’t for being bought by the federal government, would be a dead project just like Energy East.
Bill C-69 introduces changes to the “standing test” for public participation in the impact assessment review process. This has raised concerns that public hearings would be flooded by environmentalists, many of whom are supported by foreign funds as they support foreign interests to purposely stall major projects in Canada. It also is concern for a much longer and drawn out assessment process.
Many First Nations who are partners with industry in oil and gas production fear that allowing anyone and everyone to participate in the assessment process would only drown out their voices all together. This is a major concern of Alberta Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson, a member of the Independent Senators Group (ISG) who also happens to be Métis from Alberta:
“However, by removing the standing test for participation, I wonder if the Indigenous voices for projects and against projects might be drowned out by the lack of a standing test so that anybody can participate. I wonder if the ability for resources and money to be put into the environmental side might drown out the Indigenous nations that are for projects, and oil and gas money might drown out the voices of the people who might be opposed to projects.” – Financial Post
One recent recommended change to Bill C-69 is to limit participation in public hearings to those who would be directly affected by a project or have expertise in relation to a topic of relevance to the impact assessment review process.
Wouldn’t you expect only qualified individuals or those directly affected by a project to have influence on its assessment impact review anyways?
#2 – Bill C-69 Gives the Minister of Environment Veto Power
Imagine you’re an investor considering funding a major natural resource development project in Canada. Now let’s say that investment is going to cost your company billions of dollars on construction alone, with tens, if not hundreds of millions on compliance with regulatory framework and other associated costs leading up to construction.
Now imagine that after you’ve spent all that money, your project is shut down in its entirety by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
To an outside investor, this is high risk to say the least. No company in its right mind is going to invest in a project hoping that it will be approved by the minister after all that time and money has been spent. To an outside investor, this would be called what it is: a non-opportunity rife with uncertainty, climaxed by the potential for a politically-motivated final stamp of approval or disapproval.
Bill C-69 essentially puts the power of approval for natural resource development projects in Canada in the hands of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. With a potential to stop a project dead in its tracks at the end of such a lengthy process, it makes whatever assessment performed by members of the independent regulator agency (like the current National Energy Board) obsolete.
If you have an independent regulatory body with various experts in their respective fields doing a complete impact assessment review of a project, why leave it to the Minister of Environment to say yes or no once all is said and done? Once again, shouldn’t Canadians trust the experts on the issue at hand to do proper assessments and consultations and let them decide if a project is in the national interest?
Today, many industry and business leaders across the country are calling for serious amendments to the bill. One of those amendments includes limiting the power of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, a current clause in Bill C-69 that creates much more uncertainty for investors.
#3 – Bill C-69 Doesn’t Balance Economy and Environment
Part of Bill C-69 mentions the creation of a new regulatory body called the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada which would replace the current National Energy Board. In this part of the bill, it recognizes that a transparent, efficient and timely decision making process would be to the benefit of Canada while fostering a positive investment climate. However, there’s very few mentions of the economy in the entire bill as it stands.
Instead, Bill C-69 focuses on sustainability, defined by the bill itself as:
“…the ability to protect the environment, contribute to the social and economic well-being of the people of Canada and preserve their health in a manner that benefits present and future generations."
This is one of those few mentions of the economy. Instead, a very large emphasis is placed on the mitigation of the potential negative effects a project may have on the environment along side the need for extensive consultation with First Nations.
That lack of emphasis on the economy continues the further you get into the bill. The factors for the new regulatory body to consider in its impact assessment review does not include any specific mention of the potential economic positives – jobs, investments, revenues and so on and so forth.
However, there are lots of considerations regarding the government’s responsibility to meet its environmental and climate change obligations and how it would make sure projects are promoting gender equality while respecting other identity factors.
The sheer lack of representation for the positive economic benefits a major project would bring to Canada in Bill C-69 is alarming. While making sure that projects are developed in the most environmentally-friendly way possible is important, having no balance between the environment and economic benefits of a project in the review / approval process is irresponsible.
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