‘Lack of clarity’ in Bill C-69 leads Senate to send act to committee: Simons

Edmonton columnist Paula Simons was appointed to the Senate, Oct. 3, 2018. Courtesy: Twitter/Paula Simons

An Alberta senator is pulling back the curtain on why Canada’s Senate voted to return Bill C-69 — a bill to overhaul the energy project review process — to committee for amendments during the bill’s second reading.

“I did not vote to pass this legislation,” Sen. Paula Simons told Rob Breakenridge on 770 CHQR. “I would not vote in favour of C-69 as written, and I’ve said that literally from the first day I got here.

“I voted in a procedural motion to send the bill to committee because it’s at committee that bills get scrutinized, revised and amended, and that’s what needs to happen to Bill C-69.”

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Simons said that during her brief time as a senator, she has heard concerns about the bill from people both for and against proposed large-scale energy projects like the Trans Mountain expansion.

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“A lot of people on every side feel that there is a lack of clarity in the wording of the bill about what projects go on the project list for evaluation, about how we balance economic impacts versus social and environmental impacts and about the power of the minister to step in and trump whatever non-partisan, apolitical regulatory process is supposed to be. And I’m hearing that across the board,” Simons said.

LISTEN: Sen. Paula Simons joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the senate’s decision to send Bill C-69 to committee

Despite strong objections from Canada’s energy industries — including oil and gas — Simons said none of the industry groups she’s heard from want the bill to be killed during the legislative process.

“I’m also hearing from major industry groups — from CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers), from CEPA (Canadian Energy Pipeline Association), from Husky, from Imperial, from Suncor — that they don’t want the bill killed outright because they say to go back to the drawing board will just create more confusion and uncertainty for investors,” Simons continued.

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“Industry representatives have said to me that they don’t want to spike the whole thing and start over because that will just create years more of uncertainty. They’re asking for amendments.”

READ MORE: Alberta environment minister says federal energy bill C-69 inadequate in current form

Early in her tenure as senator, the former journalist noted that there were no Albertans on the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

“I thought that was a huge problem,” she said.

A self-avowed non-partisan, Simons joined the committee to represent her fellow Albertans alongside another recently named Alberta politician, Sen. Patti LaBoucane-Benson.

“It’s an all-party committee. There’s one Liberal on the committee and six Conservatives, and everybody else is either Independent or what they call ‘unaffiliated,’” explained Simons.

“This is not a rubber-stamp committee. This is a legitimate standing committee that is going to hold public hearings. Today at our meeting, we discussed holding some of those public hearings in Alberta so people can actually see what we do. This is not a kangaroo court.”

Simons also says now is the time for Albertans of all political stripes to stand together to make sure Bill C-69 benefits not only Alberta’s oil and gas sector but other large-scale energy projects in the future.

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“We need to be united as Albertans in saying: ‘This is not good legislation, and not just for Alberta’s oil industry. It’s problematic legislation for all kinds of major developments, whether that’s hydro dams, whether that’s tidal power, whether that’s offshore wind.

“This is too important for us to play petty, partisan politics with. We need a regulatory regime that protects our environment, that honours our Indigenous treaty obligations and that creates investor confidence so we can have good projects with international capital and with the sensible development of not just oil and gas — all across our industry sectors.”

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