Last Thursday, I presented to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on the Council of Canadians' position on the Navigation Protection Act, formerly the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This is the act that the former Harper government gutted leaving 99% of lakes and rivers unprotected and exempting pipelines like Energy East and Kinder Morgan from scrutiny under the act.
One of the Trudeau government's election promise was to restore and modernize lost protections under water and environmental legislation like the Navigation Protection Act. The review is underway and “consultation” is occurring through written comments to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The written comment period ends November 9, 2016. The standing committee and Transport Canada are holding limited meetings. The standing committee has agreed to a maximum of eight meetings to this issue and have begun inviting speakers to the meetings, one of which was the meeting I presented at last Thursday.
So far the speakers at the standing committee meetings have been the the Canadian Association of Energy Pipelines, the Canadian Association of Construction, the Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and the Fraser Basin Council.
I began my five minute introductory remarks on the Council of Canadians concerns about the impacts that the current Navigation Protection Act is having on navigable water ways and the pipeline, dam, mining and other projects that are moving forward without scrutiny under the act as well as the Council's call to restore and enhance protections for all lakes, rivers and navigable waterways. Chair Liberal Judy Sgro had noted at the start of the meeting that there was nothing stopping the Minister of Transport Marc Garneau from putting protections back on. But since his one year in power, Minister Garneau has not put protections back on any additional lakes, rivers or waterways.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and Paddle Canada who had presented during the previous hour were invited to stay during the hour that I had been invited to speak.
Shortly after my introductory remarks, I was surprised when Conservative Member of Parliament and Vice-Chair Luc Berthold tried to introduce a motion that would see that no more witnesses would present before the committee on this review. At first Chair Liberal Judy A. Sgro raised concerns about whether it was appropriate to do this given the committee had invited speakers to present and share their opinions. Chair Sgro then allowed Vice-Chair Berthold to proceed after which he took close to half the allotted time to reiterate what previous speakers had said and argued that it'd be better to have the Minister introduce changes first before inviting speakers. Then some of the committee members proceeded to debate whether it was appropriate for Vice-Chair Berthold to introduce such a motion, taking more time on the motion.
NDP Member of Parliament and Vice-Chair Robert Aubin was given a few minutes to ask questions about the Council's views on the ability of the National Energy Board to oversee and regulate impacts on pipelines on waterways, on the right of communities to say "no" to harmful projects and the need for communities to bring legal challenges to get their concerns or opposition heard (versus a public consultation process).
In total, I spoke for less than a quarter of the time despite being invited for the hour. It was disappointing to see the standing committee use the meeting the Council of Canadians and other groups were invited to participate in to allow one of its Vice-Chairs to call into question the standing committee's process. The process should be established and decided upon before inviting speakers to attend. This type of "consultation" is entirely inadequate. The Council urges committee members to establish its process to ensure that the limited number of speakers be given time to share their views. To listen to the meeting, click here (the Council of Canadians' presentation begins int he second half).
If the Trudeau government and the standing committee want to create "real change" creating space, listening to organizations, communities and Indigenous peoples as well as incorporating their feedback is essential to restore legitimacy and credibility of water and environmental legislation as well as government bodies.
The Council of Canadians has been calling on the Trudeau government to restore and enhance protections for waterways under its #EveryLakeEveryRiver campaign. It is critical that the federal government hold public consultations and independent expert panels and incorporate feedback to strengthen the NWPA. Watch this recent 4-minute campaign video and read the report, Every Lake, Every River: Restoring the Navigable Waters Protection Act, including four case studies that show how the current, weaked Navigation Protection Act is allowing the Energy East pipeline, BC's Ajax mine and Manitoba's Keeyask Dam and Bipole III transmission line to go forward without scrutiny of their impacts on navigable waters.
Three things you can do right now to restore protections on every lake and every river
1) Sign this petition calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to keep his election promises to restore lost water protections.
2) Make a written submission to the Standing Committee on Transport using these talking points. Be sure to urge them to recommend that public consultations be held and free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities be obtained on changes to the Navigation Protection Act.
3) Learn more about and support the #EveryLakeEveryRiver campaign.