Today in Politics, Podcast: New Assessment Rules Tabled in Parliament

Today in Politics, Podcast: New Assessment Rules Tabled in Parliament


UPDATED February 8, 2018 3:18pmET

The government’s plan for environmental and regulatory review of major resource projects has been tabled in the House of Commons.

Read Bill C-69, which the government plans to call for debate next Wednesday:

Pipelines, the Kinder Morgan dispute between Alberta and British Columbia, and the assessment plan led off today’s question period:

This comes amidst the continuing dispute between the Alberta and British Columbia governments over the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the Pacific coast.

Watch Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s full news conference:

The 2015 Liberal platform pledged a new assessment process that would:

  • restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction, while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication;
  • ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public’s interest;
  • provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate; and
  • require project advocates to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.”

The government launched a formal review in June 2016. That followed the introduction, five months prior, of an interim assessment process for energy projects already under review.

The interim criteria:

  • no project proponent will be asked to return to the starting line;
  • decisions will be based on science, traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and other relevant evidence;
  • the views of the public and affected communities will be sought and considered;
  • Indigenous peoples will be meaningfully consulted, and where appropriate, impacts on their rights and interests will be accommodated; and
  • direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions linked to the projects under review will be assessed.

The previous Conservative government passed several changes to environmental assessment and resource project reviews in budget implementation legislation.

Among the measures introduced in 2012:

  • a two-year limit for reviews of major oil and gas projects by the National Energy Board (NEB), with a possible three-month extension in certain cases;
  • certain assessments handed over to the provinces if deemed an “appropriate substitute”;
  • cabinet determination if the adverse environmental effects of a proposal are justified or not;
  • cabinet could exclude a project from the review process in matters of national security or national emergency;
  • the timelines for reviews were retroactive to July 2010;
  • the National Energy Board to have federal jurisdiction over pipelines and power lines crossing navigable waters;
  • the NEB to be exempt from measures in the Species at Risk Act that include “critical habitats” in deciding on proposals;
  • changes to the Fisheries Act that focused on fish that “support commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fisheries.”

An opposition day is scheduled for the House of Commons, with this NDP motion on the Order Paper:

That the House recall its resolution adopted March 8, 2017, which asked the government to keep its promise to cap the stock option deduction loophole and to take aggressive action to combat tax havens, and that the House call on the government to respect that vote by ensuring that both measures are included in Budget 2018.

This too led to question period exchanges:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland takes questions at the Commons foreign affairs committee. LIVE ONLINE at 3:30pm ET / 12:30pm PT

-Andrew Thomson

Here’s Mark Sutcliffe with the Today in Politics podcast: