The Federal Government’s new Smart Regulation action plan needs some key improvements according to Sierra Legal Defence Fund. The report “Smart Regulation: Report on Actions and Plans” was released today, and calls for major changes to the way federal agencies regulate nearly everything from fish to pharmaceuticals. It lays out a series of goals, timelines and measurements of achievement designed to make the Canadian economy more competitive through a more streamlined regulatory system. But Sierra Legal’s main concern is without the proper resources, enforcement and public accountability Canada’s Smart Regulation plans will only weaken existing laws to protect the environment and public health.
“The Report is a mixed bag of the positive and the negative,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Tim Howard from Vancouver. “Better coordination of Provincial and Federal environmental laws is a good idea, but what is starkly missing is a strong commitment to adequately fund Federal agencies to properly carry out their environmental protection mandates.” In particular, Sierra Legal is urging more resources be provided to the Department of Environment and Health Canada to clear a huge backlog of needed assessments for chemicals, herbicides and pesticides posing risks to the environment and human health.
The Report also proposes major changes to how the Department of Fisheries and Oceans protects fish habitat, calling for a “risk management” approach focusing on activities with a higher likelihood of harming fish habitat. However, funding challenges faced by Fisheries and Oceans are still a major concern. “DFO compliance and enforcement staff are being cut to the bone, and without adequate enforcement staff a ‘risk management approach’ can become a licence to pollute and damage fish habitat,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Dr. Anastasia Lintner from Toronto.
The report also commits Canada to promoting aquaculture, but does not address the mounting evidence of risks from fish farming for wild salmon stocks on BC’s coast. On the potentially positive side, a shift to centralizing Federal environmental assessments through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will hopefully produce higher quality environmental assessments.
“While taking a fresh approach to regulations is useful, creating a more business friendly approach should not require sacrificing the value Canadians place on a clean and safe environment,” added Howard. The government’s report can be found at www.regulation.gc.ca under “Report on Actions and Plans.”