Sunday, July 24, 2011

Canadian Conservatives Slash Environmental Assessment

Recently, in the speech from the throne, the Canadian Conservative government affirmed its commitment to improving environmental assessment, now it is gutting those institutions responsible for environmental oversight.

The Conservative government of Canada is cutting jobs and funding to the environmental agency that evaluates policies and projects. These cutbacks ensure that Canadians will have less information about proposed resource projects.

Conservatives are getting rid of a third of the full-time staff at the 17-year-old Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The Agency provides Canadians with high-quality environmental assessments that contributes to informed decision making, in support of sustainable development. They play a leadership role in the review of major projects assessed as comprehensive studies and those referred to review panels. They also coordinate the Government of Canada's Aboriginal consultation activities during the environmental assessment process.

As reported in a article, by Amy Minsky, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is looking at a cutback of almost half of their budget. According to the agency's planning documents, 43.1 percent of their budget has been cut, resulting in budgetary reductions of $13 million dollars ($30 million in 2011-12 reduced to $17.1 million in 2012-13). This is in addition to cuts In 2010-2011, when the agency had its budget cut by 6.9 per cent, or $2.2-million.

With an increasing number of large-scale mining projects coming down the pipe — including Stornoway Diamond Corp.'s foray into Quebec's first diamond mine, Taseko Mines Ltd.'s gold-copper mine in British Columbia, and the Enbridge oil pipeline — now is not the time to start taking risks, said Stephen Hazell, an environmental lawyer based in Ottawa.

Hazell indicated that the proper environmental assessments could have averted the three month long BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. "BP didn't get it sorted out, and the engineers at Fukushima didn't get it figured out. Sometimes it happens. Bad things happen," he said.

One of the programs that were cut specifically aims to improve the regulatory framework for major projects.

Hazell indicated that the Conservatives have been slowly withdrawing from the assessment act which already contained loopholes. "Perhaps these cuts they're planning are just another way of reducing federal environmental assessment and getting government off the backs of industry," Hazell said.

Cuts to the Environmental Assessment Agency, Environment Canada and the NRC paint a clear picture. With its ever expanding anti-environment agenda, it is no wonder that the federal Conservatives want to weaken government organizations with opposing views.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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