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Trudeau turns his back on election campaign promise to fix Canada’s environmental laws

During the October 2015 federal election, the federal Liberals stated, “Stephen Harper’s changes to the Fisheries Act, and his elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, have weakened environmental protections. We will review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards.”

Following the election, the Trudeau government conducted a series of consultations on the Navigation Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, the National Energy Board Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

The results of those reviews have been disappointing.

For example, Transport Canada issued a response (on June 20) accepting the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities recommendations (from March 23) on the Navigation Protection Act, the first of which recommends leaving only a scant list of 99 rivers, 64 lakes and three oceans protected under the Act.

Rather than listing all lakes and rivers, the Committee recommended: “That the government maintain the Schedule but rapidly improve the process of adding waterways to the Schedule by making it easily accessible, easy to use and transparent and that a public awareness campaign be put in place to inform stakeholders of the process.” Furthermore, the committee weakly recommended, “That the government require that Transport Canada provide reasons why a waterway is or is not added to the schedule.”

At the time, Maude Barlow commented, “Without protections for all lakes and rivers, Trudeau’s election promises ring hollow.”

Furthermore, the federal government responded to the four parallel reviews of key environmental legislation weakened or eliminated by the Harper government with, as DeSmog Canada reports, “a 24-page, diagram-filled discussion paper – [that] was so scant on details experts say it’s distressing.”

That discussion paper was released in June.

DeSmog further highlights, “[Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth] May said the federal response lacked substance and paves the way for maintaining the devastating changes made to environmental laws under Harper.”

May says, “Now we’re looking at mild tweaking as opposed to the massive repair of our gutted environmental laws.”

CBC adds, “[May] said she’s watched with ‘great shock and alarm’ as the Liberals failed to restore environmental protections – from waterway protections to industry environmental assessments. She said Trudeau is putting Canada at risk by leaving ‘the worst aspects’ of Harper’s changes to environmental laws in place while fires rage, floods devastate and storms break records.”

The Council of Canadians South Niagara, Kent County and NWT chapters all made submissions on the ‘environmental and regulatory reviews’ consultation prior to the initial August 28 deadline. That deadline has now been extended to September 15.

We continue to call on the Trudeau government to make good on its October 2015 promise to protect the environment.