Alberta senator says ‘parts of the government’ want to kill the oilsands with Bill C-69
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated Doug Black was a Conservative senator. That was incorrect. He was a Conservative senator until 2016. He is now part of the Independent Senator’s Group.
Alberta Sen. Doug Black says if the Liberal environmental assessment bill currently being studied by the Senate isn’t amended, it could kill the oilsands.
And he says that might be the intent.
“There will be no new development in the oilsands. Many would argue that’s the very intent of the legislation,” he said in an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson when asked whether the bill’s proposed new environmental assessment rules could kill the oilsands.
“I believe there are parts of the government that believe that would be a desirable outcome.”
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Introduced to the House of Commons in February 2018, the Liberals’ Bill C-69 would change how natural resource projects are assessed.
The legislation would get rid of the National Energy Board, replace it with a Canadian Energy Regulator, and also create an Impact Assessment Agency to measure how best to mitigate environmental impacts from proposed developments.
It could also lead to confusion and delays over project timelines.
The bill lowers the timeline for major projects from 720 days to 600, but also sets aside 180 days for early engagement with stakeholders like Indigenous communities and allows the government to repeatedly extend that engagement period with few, if any, real limits.
Opponents of the legislation argue projects like the Trans Mountain expansion wouldn’t have been able to get approval under the proposed system and that it puts too heavy a burden on businesses to jump through hoops before a project gets approval, which could make them reconsider seeking approval in the first place.
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Supporters of the bill, including the Mining Association of Canada, argue that while the bill is “not perfect,” passing it will reduce uncertainty to the mining industry because the legislation has the confidence of many Indigenous communities and offers a more coordinated approach to assessing overall impacts of proposed projects.
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Having received approval from the House of Commons, the bill is now before the Senate, which it will need to pass if the government wants to get royal assent on the legislation before the end of the session in June — without that, it will die when the election is called.
The Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee met for the first time last week and Black was among the senators arguing for a travel budget to be set up so members can meet with Canadians outside of Ottawa about the impact of the bill.
The government, meanwhile, argues that would be an expensive political stunt.
But Black says the legislation would create significant hurt for Canadians working in the natural resource industries and that their voices will not be heard if the committee only stays in Ottawa as is usually the case for such studies of bills.
“You don’t hear it here in Ottawa. You don’t see it, you don’t feel it in Ottawa, so this is very important,” he said.
“Of course, there’s a cost [to travel], but the cost of the Canadian economy of not getting this right is literally trillions of dollars.”
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