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3 things you need to know about water and energy bill, Bill C-69

10,000 peaceful protesters marched in the streets of Burnaby, British Columbia this spring to show their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has stated the Kinder Morgan pipeline would have been approved under Bill C-69.


The Trudeau government is attempting to ram through Bill C-69, a 400 page bill that makes sweeping changes to Canada’s water, environmental assessment and energy laws. In fact, Bill C-69 hands even more power to corporations in environmental, water, and energy decision making. 


This blog explores three key concerns about Bill C-69 which includes three main new laws: the Impact Assessment Act (IAA), the Canadian Energy Regulator Act (CERA) and the Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA). The new CNWA was supposed to restore protections gutted from the 99% of lakes and rivers by the former Harper government at the advice of Big Oil associations. But the Bill C-69 fails to restore protections and introduce modern safeguards, despite repeated promises by the Trudeau government.


The Trudeau government shut down debate on this lengthy and complex bill in the House of Commons after just two days of debate in February. 


Now debate is being shut down once again at the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where Big Oil associations and a limited number of Indigenous leaders, environmental groups and academics presented on the bill. 


In a closed-door meeting in March, the Liberal-dominated Environment Committee passed another motion to shut down the clause-by-clause study by giving it less than four days of debate. Nearly 7,000 people have sent letters to the Environment Committee calling for debate to be extended. 


Regardless of where the Environment Committee is on debating the bill, it will force a vote on the bill by 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. So far the Committee has only debated 38 pages out of the more than 400 pages and isn’t likely to get to debate on the CERA or the CNWA. Nor will it have reviewed all of the 478 amendments submitted by parties on important issues like Canada’s commitments on the environment, climate change and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  


1. Waterways are still unprotected from pipelines and powerlines


The new CNWA still exempts pipelines and powerlines leaving lakes and rivers unprotected. Pipelines like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which crosses 1,355 waterways, would not be regulated by this act. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has stated the Kinder Morgan pipeline would have been approved under the new act.


The CNWA would also create two categories of “protected” waterways. It maintains the Schedule of now 97 lakes, 64 rivers and 3 oceans that the former Harper government created. But also creates a confusing second category of protected waterways. If all navigable waters are protected under this act, why are there two categories of “protected” waterways?


Every lake, river and watershed must be clearly protected. 


2. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


Bill C-69 includes sections on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and points about Indigenous traditional knowledge. However, the amendments fall short of requiring free, prior and informed consent as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is at odds with the many times Justin Trudeau’s government has committed to respecting and implementing these obligations, including in the 2018 federal budget.


3. Corporate capture of Canada’s offshore oil boards


In April, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) gave the green light to BP (British Petroleum) – the same company responsible for the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – to drill offshore Nova Scotia despite its weak safety record, poor emergency planning, and lack of protection for fisheries.


Atlantic Regional Organizer Robin Tress writes that Bill C-69 “proposes handing some environmental assessment powers to the CNSOPB and its Newfoundland and Labrador counterpart, CNLOPB, even though this adds to the already blatant conflict between the boards’ promotional and regulatory functions…In essence, Bill C-69 will only make it easier for corporations to blow through regulatory processes, and make it harder for grassroots and Indigenous people to be part of important decisions about our energy future.”


Take action for water!


Tragically, the Liberal government supports an economic system that puts unlimited growth above the vital needs of people and the planet. Bill C-69 further cements market-based, corporate-friendly policies into Canada’s water, environment and energy laws. 


We need to redefine what is important to our communities. We need to promote water and energy security, alternatives to corporate power, respect for Indigenous rights and a living democracy across Canada. 


Take action today by calling your Member of Parliament before Tuesday’s vote. Use the points above and the links below to call for debate to be extended, raise concerns and send the message that you want stronger water legislation.


For more information: