On Thursday, the federal government tabled its 2012 budget bill. As we expected, the 431-page bill contains major
changes to Canada’s environmental legislation. But I don’t think anyone anticipated that more than a third of this document would be devoted to dismantling the legal safety net that protects the environment we all depend on.
The bill changes or repeals almost every major federal environmental statute, laying out a future in which Canada’s environmental laws will be sidelined to pave the way for mines, pipelines and energy development. Simply put, these changes amount to a massive deregulation of environmental protection in Canada. And when the laws that protect our health and our planet are weak, we are all vulnerable.
Since early this year, the federal government has been explicit about its plans to reduce red tape to make it easier for resource-extraction industries to set up shop on Canadian soil. Those plans were confirmed by in the budget bill: Fewer (and less comprehensive) environmental assessments, narrowed protections for fish and fish habitat, more authority for Cabinet to make final decisions about what is or isn’t good for the environment. The list goes on.
The bill packages environmental law changes, civil service cuts and rules that crack down on politically active charities (along with many other items) together in a massive omnibus bill. These are major changes by the government’s own admission, which are meant to be passed quickly. From our point of view, it’s a clear attempt to speed through new legislation and avoid Parliamentary debate. And we think it’s wrong. Overhauling the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the communities we live in needs vigorous debate. That’s how democratic societies operate.
This is why Ecojustice is calling for an independent expert panel to conduct a clause-by-clause analysis of the exhaustive changes outlined in the bill. Working alongside other committed defenders of our environment — including you — we are standing up for the Canada we believe in: A vibrant, sustainable country supported by a healthy environment and an engaged public.
You can take action today for Canada’s environmental laws by visiting envirolawsmatter.ca. We need your help getting the word out about what’s happening, so please share our resources and check back frequently for updates.