Ship has sailed on weak environmental assessments: Conservation Council on Bill C-69

(Saint John) The Conservation Council of New Brunswick told the Standing Senate Committee holding hearings on Bill C-69 that the ship has sailed on the era of weak environmental assessments in Canada.

Scott Kidd, a longtime member of the Conservation Council with a background in environmental law, spoke on the council’s behalf as the Standing Senate Committee for Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources held a full day of hearings in Saint John on Thursday, April 25.

“For those who are opposed to stronger impact assessment, I have to say that that ship has sailed. Whether you want to call it social license or something else, Canadians now expect to be able to participate in impact assessments and the less robust these assessments become, the more discord there is,” Kidd told senators.

Kidd talked about the value in robust impact assessment processes, saying when they are done right, it encourages greater public participation, shores up public trust in government decision-making, and promotes sound environmental, social, health and economic planning.

Kidd described why the Conservation Council supports Bill C-69 as an improvement over the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, highlighting:

  • The bill’s recognition of the respect owed to the rights of Indigenous peoples;
  • The list of factors that require an assessment, including a project’s contribution to sustainability and its effect on climate change; and
  • The requirement that the Minister and/or Cabinet provide written reasons as to why they consider a project to be in the public’s interest or not.

In addressing concerns from opponents of Bill C-69, Kidd said the goal of impact assessments is to improve the planning and decision-making process, including a clear understanding of present and future impacts — both positive and negative — of projects under assessment.

For example, Kidd said that a robust science-based assessment of big projects such as the Sisson Mine or the Energy East pipeline would include a review of the risk to tourism and fisheries jobs.

You can read the Conservation Council’s full presentation to the Senate Committee here (five-six minute read).

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Jon MacNeill, Communications Director, Conservation Council; jon.macneill@conservationcouncil.ca; 506-238-3539