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By placing the items in a budget bill, the environmental measures can only be repealed if the legislation is defeated, triggering an election call.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.