OTTAWA – Joshua Ginsberg, Director of Legislative Affairs at Ecojustice, issued the following statement in response to the federal government’s introduction of legislation for federal environmental assessment, the National Energy Board as well as amendments to the Navigation Protection Act:
“The federal government has made improvements to Canada’s environmental assessment, energy regulation, and navigable waters protection laws today. Unfortunately it fell short of a complete overhaul of the system put in place by the Conservatives in 2012.
“There are very encouraging parts of this bill. We are pleased that the government created a single agency to conduct assessments and mandated it to consider a broader set of factors including Canada’s climate commitments. We believe that the new requirement for the Minister to issue reasons demonstrating that she considered those factors when making decisions will go a long way to restoring lost public trust.
“But any credibility restored to the environmental assessment process will continue to hang by a thread. The gains in the bill depend on the government’s new project list – a Harper-era regulation that determines what is actually subject to assessments. Unless that is significantly expanded to include projects like in-situ oil sands extraction, the impact of the new law will be limited.
“The legislation also missed an opportunity to implement the “clear, objective” sustainability criteria recommended by the government-appointed Expert Panel. Instead, the bill retains the government discretion that has created uncertainty in EA, including with respect to initiating critical regional and strategic assessments.
“We remain committed to continuing to work with government to make the necessary changes that will ensure legislation is strengthened before it is passed into law.”