Canada: Does stimulus really require further gutting of environmental protections?

A leaked government document outlining the proposed changes to the
Canadian Environmental Assessment Act indicates Environment Minister
Jim Prentice has asked for a bill “overhauling” the legislation as
soon as possible.

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He said the proposed changes are in response to the provinces, who
recently told Prime Minister Stephen Harper that overlapping
environmental rules will delay public stimulus spending from creating
jobs. Under the new system, the government should “expect to capture
200-300 projects per year,” the document states.

That would represent a more than 95 per cent drop from the roughly 6,000 federal environmental assessments that currently take place each year. Environmentalists who released the document Friday at a pressconference on Parliament Hill said they expect the bill will be introduced later this month or in April. “This is no coincidence. It’s been clear since minister Prentice was appointed Environment Minister that he really still is the minister of industry,” said Stephen Hazell, the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, an environmental advocacy group.

“He’s pushing an old-style economy and not moving toward the clean energy economy that President [Barack] Obama has indicated that he wants to take his country towards.” The changes would come on the heels of a similar change included in the budget legislation that passed this week, which reduced the ability to trigger environmental assessments through the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said the proposed legislation would represent a much bigger change than the controversial measures passed in the budget. “It’s not acceptable,” she said. “They really are using the economic recession to advance their agenda, which is disregard for the environment.”

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