OTTAWA – Law experts are calling Bill C-69, passed by the House of Commons today, a significant step toward better protections for Canadians and the environment. The bill improves the way reviews of projects with potentially adverse impacts – such as pipelines, mines, and nuclear facilities – are conducted.
“The Environment Committee worked hard and made important improvements to the bill, which we were pleased to see adopted in Parliament”, said Joshua Ginsberg, Director of Legislative Affairs at Ecojustice. “The amended bill will improve transparency in environmental reviews and mandate that Canada’s climate obligations are factored into decisions”.
The Liberals promised to “restore lost protections” and implement “modern safeguards” after the previous government weakened key environmental laws. In February 2018, the federal government introduced a bill that replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and the National Energy Board Act with the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and amended the Navigation Protection Act, now called the Canadian Navigable Waters Act (Bill C-69).
With input from Ecojustice and its allies, the Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development improved the proposed legislation by limiting the influence of industry-captured energy regulators and requiring government to base the final decision on a report from the new Impact Assessment Agency. The bill also has a new emphasis on meaningful public participation, removing barriers under the current law.
“The new laws will only be as effective as their implementation,” Ginsberg cautioned. “The government has not released a draft list of projects that will be subject to Impact Assessment. Unless the list is significantly expanded, the Impact Assessment Act will ultimately do little to improve on the status quo and will not tackle cumulative environmental effects. We look forward to working with government on regulations that will support the intent of the new law.”
On a more disappointing note, Ginsberg pointed out that despite the government’s promises to restore and enhance protections for Canada’s waterways, Bill C-69 did not restore environmental considerations to the Canadian Navigable Waters Act.
Now that third reading in the House of Commons is complete, Bill C-69 will head to the Senate for an additional round of scrutiny. Ginsberg said Ecojustice and other environmental groups will be paying close attention.
“We remain committed to ensuring that Bill C-69 is passed into law, and that the government fully implements the new legislation to better protect people, nature and the climate.”