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Liberals move ‘time allocation’ on Bill C-69, legislation on environmental reviews and navigable waters

The House of Commons website explains, “The time allocation rule allows for specific lengths of time to be set aside for the consideration of one or more stages of a public bill. While the term ‘time allocation’ connotes ideas of time management more than it does closure, a motion to allocate time may be used as a guillotine by the government. Indeed, although the rule permits the government to negotiate with opposition parties towards the adoption of a timetable for the consideration by the House of a bill at one or more stages (including the stage for the consideration of Senate amendments), it also allows the government to impose strict limits on the time for debate.”

The formal title for Bill C-69 is An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Bill C-69 had its First Reading in the House of Commons on February 8 and there were Second Reading major speeches on February 14. There has not yet been a vote on C-69’s Second Reading which would be followed by a referral to Committee for study then a final Third Reading vote, consideration by the Senate and Royal Assent.

It’s not clear at this point what timelines the Liberals will put forward for this legislation or why the Liberals have moved time allocation on it.

In terms of the the bill itself, May asked Alexandre Boulerice (the NDP environment critic) during its Second Reading, “Is the member worried, as am I, that overall the new government has kept much of what Harper created? That is to say a system that used to see about 4,000 assessments a year has shrunk to several dozen. It appears to me that the new formula of the Liberals is to improve rights of participation somewhat but keep the number of projects assessed to fewer than 100 a year. This will inevitably lead to projects going ahead that could cause significant environmental damage that will not get assessed.”

Boulerice replied, “If a project is not assessed because the government has limited the agency’s ability to trigger assessments, then there is no public participation or consultation. That simply no longer exists. The two go hand in hand. We are therefore extremely concerned. That is why we are going to propose amendments to give this bill more teeth.”

Later in the debate May highlights, “Bill C-69 is an omnibus bill changing three bills. I should stress that Bill C-68 on the Fisheries Act gets it exactly right and keeps the promise to restore lost protections. Bill C-69 does not.”

The Council of Canadians agrees that C-69 falls short of the Liberal Party’s election promises to “make environmental assessments credible again” and “restore lost protections and incorporate more modern safeguards” in the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

We are now calling on the Liberal government to introduce new water protection legislation that protects all lakes, rivers and drinking water sources, for the government to reject the Kinder Morgan pipeline, respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and free, prior and informed consent, and enshrine  the UN-recognized obligation to protect drinking water from being polluted.

To sign our petition, please click here.