Harper Conservatives target environmental reviews
OTTAWA - The Green Party of Canada fears for the future of environmental regulation in Canada after reading the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development's statutory review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. "The recommendations contained in this report are all about railroading through projects and ignoring the environment. Prime Minister Harper has made it quite clear that he considers environmental regulations to be a roadblock to be demolished and the dynamite is being handed over by the Standing Committee," said Green Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands).
The report contains a list of recommendations that would horrify most citizens concerned with environmental protection. If these are accepted, there would be fewer triggers for an environmental assessment, no review of project alternatives to lessen impacts, and all reviews would be subject to strict, fixed deadlines. Public and aboriginal consultation will be curtailed, and Minister's discretion rather than scientific evidence will become the new rule.
"The five-year review of CEAA was meant to ensure the legislation would remain strong, not to deal it a fatal blow," said May. The mandatory review was abridged before all witnesses could testify. "I sent the committee a letter requesting to be a witness. I had attended a number of hearings, but wasn't allowed to speak. I know I'm not the only one that was prevented from speaking to defend the fundamental pillars of CEAA," said May.
The report contains dissenting opinions from both the Liberal Party and the New Democrats. "Even those on the committee realized that this legislated review of CEAA is fundamentally flawed," said May. "It will be a travesty if CEAA is altered based on this review. This report should be shelved until a proper consultation is done that is evidence-based and includes all stakeholders in a respectful and thorough process. The way it stands, the report lacks all credibility."
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