The federal government's proposed changes to the environmental approvals process will only deter investment and harm Canadian workers
*Note – this story first appeared in the National Post, and is co-authored by:
Bob Masterson, President and CEO, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada
Gary Leach, President, The Explorers and Producers Association of Canada
Chris Gardner, President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC
Chris Bloomer, President and CEO, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Tom Whalen, Interim President and CEO, Petroleum Services Association of Canada
Tim McMillan, President and CEO, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Timothy M. Egan, President and CEO, Canadian Gas Association
Wendy Zatylny, President, Association of Canadian Port Authorities
The LNG Canada announcement that its liquified natural gas project at Kitimat, BC will move forward is a great story for Canada and shows how complex and important Canadian resource development is to our country.
It also shows that our current environmental impact assessment process works to protect our precious natural environment.
But, stories like this will become few and far between, especially if the impact assessment process proposed in the current Bill C-69 is passed and implemented. Middle-class Canadians across the country who are hoping for similar projects and the many direct and indirect job opportunities that flow from them should know that Canada is developing a reputation as a high-risk place to do business.
Bill C-69, if passed in its current form, will make this reputation much, much worse.
We cannot afford to introduce the additional uncertainty created by Bill C-69. Well-paying Canadian middle-class jobs are at stake. In a global business environment that is increasingly unpredictable, it is critical that our regulatory systems balance economic growth with environmental protection and that our elected government create the conditions for that sustainable growth.
Bill C-69, as drafted, suggests neither of these. It will lead to greater uncertainty in the assessment and review processes.
It requires assessment and decisions based on broad public policy questions that are beyond the scope of individual projects. It introduces longer timelines, and vague criteria that will increase the risk of legal challenges. It gives the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada broad discretionary powers, further increasing uncertainty for major infrastructure projects.
The federal government wants to take the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency – a regulator and an agency that thoroughly and credibly reviewed and approved the LNG Canada project (and other major projects) – and replace them with brand new entities. The effect will be to erase a rich history of decision-making precedents and proven processes in order to start from scratch.
This will create significant uncertainty for projects – projects that are essential to delivering economic growth and quality of life for all Canadians.
We believe in the value and importance of proper environmental impact assessment processes that are robust and science-based, and in the value of sustainability in our operations. Bill C-69 does not assure these – it does not achieve a proper balance between the environment and the economy.
Communities, businesses and families all over the country are feeling the strain. Projects, jobs, and investment are being re-directed to countries with greater predictability in regulatory processes and clearer expectations for investors – meaning those investors are no longer investing in Canada.
Let’s change Bill C-69.
We can revitalize our reputation as a great place to do business. It is essential that we do so for the long-term livelihood and prosperity of all Canadians.
The Canadian Senate has an opportunity to put Bill C-69 on hold and to work with stakeholders from across the country to ensure a federal regulatory review process that works for all stakeholders. We urge the federal government to hit pause on Bill C-69 and take the time to get it right.
When the government commenced the regulatory review process, Canadians were promised legislation that would restore public trust, introduce new, fair processes, and get our resources to market. Bill C-69 falls short of that promise. We ask the Government of Canada to take the time needed, and work with us to ensure a better future for Canadians.