Wednesday, March 31, 2010

King Prentice And Lines In The Sand

Despicable, but hardly surprising, the Conservatives have buried a massive GUTTING of environmental assessments. Prentice effectively has the power to unilaterally override normal environmental protocols, which will allow projects to move forward, with no regard for impacts:
The federal Conservatives are giving Environment Minister Jim Prentice clear legal authority to avoid ordering full assessments of environmentally controversial projects, such as major mines and oil sands operations, according to a provision contained in the bill implementing details of the government’s new budget.

The new provisions weren’t publicly announced at the time the budget was unveiled earlier in March, and only came to light late Tuesday after the release of the bill implementing financial aspects of the government new economic measures.

The key provisions of the legislation will give Mr. Prentice the power to order reviews of only small aspects of potentially damaging projects, and not the entire undertakings, as is now usually the case.

I know the Liberals position isn't necessarily popular, but Ignatieff has been quite clear that we have to do a much better job on the environmental impact front. Prentice's new usurping power amounts to a line in the sand for the Liberals, because we simply can't endorse a weakening of our environmental laws:
By placing the items in a budget bill, the environmental measures can only be repealed if the legislation is defeated, triggering an election call.

“Frankly, it’s a devious political tactic,” contends Stephen Hazell, a lawyer with Ecojustice, a non-profit group that undertakes legal actions against polluters. “The Liberals can’t vote against the budget so they brought in all of these unpalatable little tidbits that are in essence poison pills for the Liberals.”

The Liberals must DEMAND these provisions be removed. I understand this is a complicated argument, because you could well trigger an election, but this is every bit the poison pill, BURIED to allow passage, that has to be addressed with a forceful rebuke. The Liberals simply can't allow Prentice the power to undermine our conservation laws, this move goes beyond the pale.

I would argue the Canadian public will not support this Conservative initiative, and I'd use the "slip in under the rug" approach as proof positive the government is aware of the optics. With this knowledge in mind, the Liberals do have some latitude to push hard, and by making this a make or break issue, they could well re-establish themselves on the environmental file. We can't let this bullshit go unchallenged.


Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Need to get someone to make the point that that trigger was inserted by Lucien Bouchard as Minister of Environment in a Conservative Govt, where he proclaimed the importance of Federal oversight and said issue was too important to be subject to strict provinical jurisdiction. Good anecdote about it in Lawrence Martin's biography, if I recall correctly. History has its amusing ironies.

Steve V said...

Good point.

Steve V said...

Honestly, I can't see the Cons plunging us into an election over a refusal to pull these powers. It's a very underhanded move, appears sneaky, and the Libs would receive backing should they take a stand. Inserting poison pills, in a dishonest way, doesn't exactly work for the Cons, should we demand omission or no support.

Tof KW said...

Inserting poison pills, in a dishonest way, doesn't exactly work for the Cons

Yes but it's the way they get things done in Ottawa. What, you expect our government to openly table legislation in the Commons and encourage debate? How very pre-2006 of you! :)

Steve V said...

Any sense that the Cons are trying to pull a fast one, in the dead of the night, reinforces their achilles heel. Again, I'd say the way they've "released" this tells me the gov't agrees.

900ft Jesus said...

I'm glad you feel this strongly on this issue, Steve V. It needs to be fought, hard. Liberals need to show they are more than words, Harper needs to be slapped with force, but most important - this simply can't be allowed to go through because the damage will be felt for generations, and the more we shrug our shoulders at this crap, the more people begin to think it's just another one of those unpleasant things in life we have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

With the Tar Sands output set to triple in the next decade and the image of Canada taking a beating, this move may be a part of the PR campaign of the Cons to convince everyone that they are concerned about climate change. If CCS is able to reduce GHG even a little, this can be cited as progress. The pollution and draining of the Athabasca water shed and the release of carbon from the destroyed boreal forest will however continue, not subject to environmental assessment. While the Libs wait for the right moment to challenge Harper, in the meantime things are just going from bad to worse for our country.