Thursday, May 9, 2013

Canada's Ruling Conservatives Take Another Swipe at Environmental Protections

Canada's ruling federal conservatives are once again taking the ax to the nation's environmental protections. In a bid to virtually eliminate government agencies that could stand in the way of fossil fuel extraction, The federal government is reducing the number of departments and agencies that can do environmental reviews from 40 to just three. The only federal bodies to carry out reviews will be the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

"We need to tap into the tremendous appetite for resources in the world’s dynamic emerging economies — resources we have in abundance," said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver in defense of the move.

The new streamlined environmental review process will contentious projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline project. This means the pipeline could start a full year and half sooner. The proposed legislation will also make it much more difficult for concerned citizens to wade into the discussion. Only people with a “direct interest” would be allowed to intervene in a project review.

This move comes after the Conservatives slashed funding to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, cut budgets of federal departments such as Environment Canada, and firing hundreds of scientists responsible for environmental assessments.

Environmental groups and opposition parties have decrying the governments support for big energy companies which amounts to giving them carte blanche to do as they will with the environment.

Green Party Leader and MP Elizabeth May referred to this action as "savaging of the environmental assessment process."

"What's really happening here is that the federal government is abdicating its responsibility and trying to get out of the protecting-the-environment business," Sierra Club's Bennett said. "Why don't they go all the way and shut down Environment Canada and be honest and say, 'We don't give a shit'? Because that's what they're doing."

Not surprising the fossil fuel industry loves Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cadre of corporate minions. David Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, loudly applauded the measures.

This is yet another indication that the federal Conservatives are out of step with Canadians as they swim upstream against global currents that are calling for more environmental protections.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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