Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. (The Canadian Press)

Liberals reject most Tory amendments to environmental assessment bill

The amendments would give agency right to decide if it should consider Indigenous rights or climate change

The federal government is rejecting most of the amendments proposed by Conservative senators to Bill C-69.

A senior government official speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said after going through every amendment — there were 187 by one count ­— the government has concluded most of the proposals by Conservative senators were designed to weaken the bill.

“The vast majority of conservative proposals are simply unacceptable,” he said.

About 90 per cent of the Conservative amendments will not be agreed to, he said, including allowing the new Impact Assessment Agency flexibility to decide whether to take into account a project’s effect on Indigenous rights or climate change.

The government is also rejecting amendments that would make it harder to challenge a project approval in court and limit who can participate in review hearings.

The official said the government is OK with the Impact Assessment Agency having discretion to decide how the public can meaningfully participate, but legislating away people’s right to be heard was “just flat out not acceptable.”

Many of those amendments were heavily criticized by environment groups that said C-69 provided some balance between protecting the environment and economic growth. They blamed the Conservatives for wanting to give full reign to the oil and gas sector to run roughshod over the environment.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna served notice late Tuesday of her intention to table the government’s motion responding to the Senate amendments in the House of Commons after question period Wednesday.

Conservative senators, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and five conservative premiers have all said that every single amendment has to be accepted or the bill will be the death knell for Canada’s oil and gas sector.

The premiers this week warned Trudeau he was threatening national unity if he didn’t accept all the changes. In turn, he accused them of irresponsibly playing games with national unity simply because they weren’t getting their way.

The legislation overhauls how major national resource and transportation projects, such as pipelines, mines and interprovincial highways, are assessed for their impact on the environment, the economy, and the health and social well-being of Canadians.

It fulfills a Liberal election promise to replace a 2012 process brought in by the former Conservative government. That process, used to review both the Northern Gateway pipeline and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, ended up with a federal court overturning the cabinet approval because the review process didn’t adequately consider environmental effects and Indigenous rights.

There are many amendments, mostly made by independent senators who were appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since 2016, the government will accept. Those include changes to reduce the discretion of the minister of the environment to interfere in a review process.

The government initially wrote the bill so that the minister would be able to intervene to lift time constraints placed on the review process and appoint the panellists who will review major projects.

The changes transfer those authorities from the minister to the head of the new Impact Assessment Agency.

Changes that improve the role regional assessments can play to look at proposals will be accepted as the government wants to reduce duplication of reviews at provincial and federal levels. Also, changes that give more clarity to how a new planning and design phase will work are also acceptable to the government.

The planning phase is meant to force project proponents to put their cards on the table early so any potential concerns from affected communities can be raised immediately.

READ MORE: McKenna considering Senate changes to environmental-assessment bill

ALSO READ: Trans Mountain pipeline protestors rally in Vancouver

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Leeroy Stagger to bring edgier new sound to the Capital Ballroom

Award-winning folk artist will highlight new album, Strange Path, at Oct. 20 show

Ginormous 10-foot dragon towers over Saanich yard

Artist Dan Iochelli spent seven years crafting the metal beast

Return of the undead: Victoria Zombie Walk hits the streets

Hundreds of zombies expected for annual event Oct. 26 in Centennial Square

Popular corn maze at North Saanich’s Pendray Farms out of operation

No Halloween-themed activities taking place this year at local farm

Investigation into cause of Saanich structure fire underway

The Friday morning fire left contents of the home ‘beyond repair,’ says a Saanich firefighter

VIDEO: Explosion, fire sends woman running from Saanich home

Heavy smoke in the area, crews on scene

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Most Read