No doubt if it can get away with it the Conservative govt. will argue that changes to environmental regulations can be justified on the grounds that it will save money and promote economic development. It remains to be seen what position the Liberals will take on the environment. So far the party has dropped the Green Shift and Ignatieff goes about talking about what a great gusher the Oil Sands if for the Canadian economy.
Conservative draft bill would weaken environmental regulations: NDP
Last Updated: Thursday, January 22, 2009 6:02 PM ET
A leaked federal government memo suggests the Conservatives plan to water down environmental laws in order to make it easier to approve infrastructure projects, the NDP said Thursday.
According to NDP environment critic Linda Duncan, the leaked document suggests the government plans to present a draft bill to Parliament in the spring that would eliminate environmental assessments on projects valued at less than $10 million and that occur on federal lands.
It would also give provinces the option to carry out their own environmental reviews instead of using federal scientists, says the NDP.
"The Harper government is trying to say you can't have economic development and environmental protection," said Duncan.
The NDP also claims the proposed changes would weaken federal oversight of environmental impact assessments under the federal Environmental Assessment Act, brought in by the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in 1992. Mulroney was crowned the greenest PM in a 2006 survey by Corporate Knights magazine of high-profile environmentalists and others.
"In one blow of the pen, the federal government is going to undermine the effective consultative work established in the 1980s to have a clear role for the assessment of major projects," said Duncan.
The Environment Department suggests the proposed new law would have stronger enforcement mechanisms and clearer lines of accountability.
A federal spokesperson dismissed the suggestion that the government would simply abandon environmental assessments. But she would not comment on the government's plans.
"We do recognize the importance of protecting the environment," Lucille Jamault of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency told the Canadian Press.
"There is no bill before the Parliament at this time, and no final decisions have been made."
Not opposed to quick spending
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said next Tuesday's federal budget will contain spending measures to stimulate the faltering economy, including money for infrastructure projects.
The NDP is not opposed to making sure the infrastructure money is spent quickly to stimulate the economy, said Duncan.
"Our stance is, let's use a good part of … the federal infrastructure monies to protect the environment, to move forward in developing cleaner energy sources," she said.
Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green party, also urged Harper to include green investments in the budget Thursday.
"Don't use the economy as an excuse to gut environmental protection," she said.With files from the Canadian Press