After reading MP John Weston’s reassuring words about Bill C-38 (“Supporting C-38,” Chief, June 14), I cannot help but question: Why have these critical changes to environmental legislation been concealed within layers of a budget implementation bill? What, exactly, is it that the government is trying to hide? And more importantly, why does the Conservative Party feel that Canadians should be denied an open and informed debate?
It turns out my skepticism is well founded. With just a little research I have discovered that the changes to our laws within Bill C-38 are unprecedented in their breadth. With Bill C-38 we are seeing an unprecedented attack not only on the environment, but many would say on our uniquely Canadian tradition of collaborative and informed democracy. Section 3 of Bill C-38 involves the repeal and rewrite of four of Canada’s major environmental laws including The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, The Species at Risk Act, The Canadian Environmental Protection Act and our Fisheries Act.
Many in the scientific and environmental communities view the changes as dismantling 50 years of progressive legislation designed to safeguard and protect the fish, wildlife and ecological systems on which all Canadians depend. As an example, the changes to our laws will now provide the discretionary power for the Minister of the Environment to:
• Exempt by order the requirement for an environmental assessment;
• Substitute an environmental assessment with other undefined processes;
• Provide the Minister the authority to cancel environmental assessments that are already underway.
The changes to our Fisheries Act are equally troubling and are viewed as so detrimental to our ability to protect fisheries that it has provoked no less than four previous Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans (who served under three different Prime Ministers) to urge the government to reconsider the changes to the act.
It is unfortunate to see Mr. Weston relying on vetted party expressions that seem more designed to conceal rather than explain the true nature of the issues. No one who has taken a close look at Bill C-38 could with integrity characterize the changes to our environmental laws as anything other than substantial. Certainly the implications for British Columbians goes far beyond a few carp, and by the way, Mr. Weston: Carp in ditches — it’s really an eastern thing.
Since the Conservative majority win in the last election we have seen a dramatic anti-environment sentiment at the highest levels of the party. Canadians need to be wondering how much of our fisheries policy will actually be determined by the expertise of our scientists and professionals versus the direct involvement of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance or powerful interests in the oil and gas industry.
As individuals and as a community, we value jobs and economic prosperity, but I believe there are many of us living in the Sea to Sky Corridor who also believe that we can create jobs and prosperity without hammering Mother Nature.