Natural resource amendments

Federal government drastically alters regulatory process

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced on April 17 that the Conservative government will be tabling legislation that will radically change the environmental oversight process in the country’s natural resource sectors.

The amendments will shift the primary responsibility of environmental analysis and oversight to provincially run agencies. The federal government will continue to be active in the review of multi-province developments and any project deemed large enough to impact the nation’s best interests. It is still unclear what the standard will be in order for a new development to require federal oversight.

The federal government will also be able to override decisions made by the National Energy Board.

The rationale behind the proposed changes is to reduce the number of redundancies and inefficiencies in the current regulatory framework. The federal government says this will remove unnecessary obstacles when attracting international investors.

The new legislation will impose strict time limits on environmental reviews and assessments. In addition the government says it will reduce the ability of small environmental groups to cause unnecessary delays in regulatory process.

Once the legislation is pushed through only environmental agencies that can provide evidence they are directly affected by a particular development will be permitted to voice official concern about its potential environmental impact.

Environmental groups have been up in arms since the Harper government first outlined their intentions in last month’s budget.

“The government says it’s committed to making environmental protection a top priority but they outlined plans to cut the budget of the agency responsible with enforcing that commitment in their last budget” says Simon Dyer policy director of the Pembina Institute. “With the proposed changes Canadians will get weaker and less-informed decision-making sloppy environmental protection and an increased likelihood of environmental impact.”