Monday, February 16, 2015

The Harper Attack On The Environment - Part Three

H/t Michael Nabert

Never should one industry get to write Canada's environmental law. Never should one industry get to rewrite Canada's treaties. Never should one industry be listened to over the voice of tens of thousands of protesting citizens.

Yet that is exactly what has happened, according to Yan Roberts and others who have studied the systematic dismantling of tough environmental regulations under the Harper regime.

In this third part of a series exploring the devastation that the Harper regime has wrought on the environment, I am departing from Elizabeth May's book to examine the consequences of Bill C-45, one of the regime's infamous omnibus 'budget' bills that carried within its bulk all kinds of non-budgetary items.

One of the biggest of those non-budgetary targets was the Navigable Waters Protection Act, since changed to the Navigation Protection Act. The omission of waters in the act is a clue as to what happened as a result of lobbying by the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association which, some claim, in fact dictated the terms of the changes.

Two years ago The Toronto Star reported the following:
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association met with senior government officials in the fall of 2011, urging them not just to streamline environmental assessments, but also to bring in “new regulations under (the) Navigable Waters Protection Act,” a CEPA slide presentation shows.

A copy of the Oct. 27 presentation made to then-deputy minister of trade Louis Levesque was obtained by Greenpeace Canada and shared with The Canadian Press.
These were their demands:
•Regulatory reform so that each project goes through just one environmental review;

•Bolster the Major Projects Management Office (tasked with steering resource projects efficiently through the bureaucracy);

•Speed up permitting for small projects;

•Make government expectations known early in the permitting process;

•Support an “8-1-1” phone line to encourage construction companies to “call before you dig”;

•Modify the National Energy Board Act so it can impose administrative penalties, in order to prevent pipeline damage;

•New regulations under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
It seems the Harper enablers responded quickly to most of these 'troublesome' regulations:
The first budget omnibus bill [C-38] in June contained a replacement for the Environmental Assessment Act and also a provision to remove pipelines and power lines from provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. [Emphasis mine.] Predictably, reaction from environmentalists was negative, while business and the natural resource sector reacted positively to the changes.
But the Harper wrecking crew was not yet finished:
...the government surprised many close observers by going even further in a second omnibus bill, C-45. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was changed to the Navigation Protection Act, significantly reducing its scope over Canada’s waters.
As Yan Roberts points out,
This new acts leaves 99.9 per cent of our rivers and 99.7 per cent of our lakes without basic protection.
And, as Fasken Marleau made clear in an environmental bulletin,
...the government will limit the application of the new law to the three oceans flanking the Canadian borders as well as 97 lakes and 62 rivers that have been qualified as important commercial and recreational water courses. The building of works on any body of water not mentioned in Schedule 2 of the new legislation will no longer be governed by federal law.
Perhaps the clearest sense of the potential consequences of this legislation is imparted by Vancouver - West Coast Environmental Law Executive Director and Senior Counsel Jessica Clogg:
Bill C-45 transforms the Navigable Waters Protection Act into the Navigation Protection Act. Historically, the Navigable Waters Protection Act protected the right to navigate without interference from logging operations, bridges, pipelines, dams, and other forms of industrial development. In this manner it provided an indirect tool to protect water and the environment.

Now only water bodies specifically listed in a schedule to the act are protected. The Navigation Protection Act excludes 99.7% of Canada’s lakes and over 99.9% of Canada’s rivers from federal oversight. Pipelines are also specifically exempted...
How did we come to this terrible state of affairs, where the gutting of environmental regulation is directed by oil lobbyists whose activities are largely hidden from public view? It would certainly be easy to blame it solely on the Harper regime's unethical use of omnibus bills. It would be easy to blame a regime that is so ideologically driven that it recognizes value not in our natural capital, but only the capital that accrues from destroying that heritage.

But that would be only part of the truth. The other part resides with all of us, too busy 'getting and spending' to take note of or care that the ephemeral is no replacement for the deep natural riches our country has been bestowed with, riches that are being systematically destroyed by the philistines among us.

For Further Reading:


  1. We all go along to get along, Lorne. We have been groomed to accept this behaviour. We believe ourselves powerless. We believe the leaders to whom we give our votes need not fight back on our behalf. Look at the "in a heartbeat" response of Harper to legislate CP Rail strikers back to work. Do you hear Mulcair or Trudeau crying 'foul' or rallying to the defence of labour? No, neither do I. You know as well as I that they're all more or less neoliberal and that extends to the advancement of private interest even in conflict to the public interest. As Dale Evans would sing, "Happy Trails."

    1. You have rendered a completely accurate assessment of the sad state of our democracy, I fear, Mound. And i couldn't help but think as I read about the pending legislation this morning that unions could ultimately fall under the aegis of Bill C-51 with its vague provisions about threats to the infrastructure and economic stability of the country.

  2. We are effectively a petro-state in the worst sense of the term. We have a prime minister who is a servant of Big Fossil, harnessing the apparatus of the state to suit their bidding. We never really codified the fiduciary responsibility our federal leaders have to the Canadian people, a shortcoming we need to address. We've left this huge ethical gap and Harper has taken full advantage of it.

    1. When you have a leader with no moral compass whatsoever, the country is clearly imperiled, Mound. In previous times, I think that ethical responsibility was implicit, if not always embraced. Now it seems entirely absent from the menu of choices our 'leaders' follow.