Two Provinces, Conservative Senators Turn Up the Heat on Federal Impact Assessment Act
Canada’s new Impact Assessment Act is facing opposition on two fronts, with two provinces and a pair of Conservative-affiliated senators claiming the measure will harm the country’s economic competitiveness.
In Iqaluit last week, Saskatchewan and Ontario both refused to sign the joint communiqué from the annual energy and mines ministers’ meeting, which committed federal and provincial governments to “ensure an effective regulatory review process that enhances economic competitiveness and maintains a sustainable environment.” Instead, the two provinces issued their own claim that the new Act, Bill C-69, “would result in a more complex, costly, and time-consuming process, while creating uncertainty that could ultimately erode Canada’s economic competitiveness.”
By contrast, Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd signed on to the wider consensus statement, while raising her own province’s issues with the legislation. “We had a lot of opportunities as ministers to raise our concerns and cautions on the bill going forward. Absolutely I feel we were heard and we’ve got a lot of work to do yet,” she said.
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“We have agreed to continue to work together, and I feel that I was absolutely able to represent Alberta’s concerns. But, at the same time, it’s not just about Alberta; it’s about Canada and keeping us competitive. We’ve all committed to roll up our sleeves and continue to work to get this right.”
University of Alberta political scientist Jared Wesley noted that it’s hard to get things done in Canada when “key players in the federation want to colour outside of the lines,” CBC reports.
“The principle of consensus is really what binds Canadian intergovernmental relations together,” he said. “Why would any premier go to the table at all if we all know beforehand that Ontario and Saskatchewan will step outside the doors and say something different?”
In Ottawa, meanwhile, fossil-affiliated independent senator Doug Black expressed concern about a broader approval process in C-69 that he said would allow opponents to slow projects down indefinitely, while giving the federal cabinet too much authority to approve or deny projects. [Not that that seems to be much of a problem for the industry these days—Ed.]
“I will oppose this legislation at every stage because it’s wrong for Canada, it is the wrong thing to be doing,” he said. “This legislation is completely overboard and will damage the Canadian economy for decades.”
Alexandre Deslongchamps, spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, cast C-69 as a key support for the Trudeau government’s stated goal of balancing environmental and economic objectives. “Unfortunately, it has become all too clear that Conservative politicians—right across the country—have no plan at all, and have no interest in creating one,” he said.