My MP’s reply to my letter about the Omnibus Bill C-38 (please see my rebuttal)

If you haven’t yet, please read my original letter sent to my Canadian MP, Andrew Saxton.

Below is MP Saxton’s response and click here to see my rebuttal to this letter:

[From my MP Andrew Saxton, of North Vancouver, Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification]

Dear Dale,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding our government’s omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act.

To address your concerns about the environmental assessment changes being introduced in Bill C-38, it is important to note that Canada’s environmental review process, as it currently stands, does not serve the cause of environmental protection as well as it should. There is currently no direct enforcement mechanism in place under the current Environment Assessment Act to ensure liability. In the federal government, accountability for environmental assessments rests with many different departments and agencies, with each organization having its own mandate, processes, information needs and timelines. This is not effective. It is another example of the confusion, delay and duplication that often plagues government departments.

It is also important to note that this legislation will, for the first time, authorize the use of monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the National Energy Board Act. Bill C-38 is, for the first time, introducing enforceable environmental assessment decision statements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, meaning that if proponents of major projects don’t comply with the conditions set out in decision statements they will face tough financial penalties that could range from $100,000 to $400,000.

We are also introducing the following measures:

  • Focusing environmental assessments on major projects that have greater potential for significant adverse environmental effects, which would include participation by public directly affected;
  • Ensuring that smaller, more routine projects will still be subject to federal and provincial laws, standards and permits, where applicable;
  • Requiring follow-up programs after all environmental assessments to verify the accuracy of predictions regarding potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures are working as intended;
  • For the first time, providing federal inspectors with authority to examine whether or not conditions set out in an environmental assessment decision statement are met;
  • For the first time, authorizing the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the National Energy Board Act. They will be designed to address small contraventions quickly so that larger issues do not arise in the future. The proposed penalties could range from $25,000 to a maximum of $100,000 for the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the National Energy Board Act, while the range of penalties under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be established through regulations.
  • As a safeguard, providing the Minister of the Environment authority to order an assessment for any project subject to federal jurisdiction;
  • Consolidating responsibility for environmental assessments with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for most projects, as well as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board for projects within their mandates;
  • Increasing the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency so that it can conduct and complete high quality environmental assessments in a timely and predictable way;
  • Providing $13.5 million over 2 years to improve pipeline safety across Canada by enabling the National Energy Board to increase the number of inspections for oil and gas pipelines by 50%, from about 100 to 150 per year and double, from 3 to 6, the number of annual comprehensive audits in order to identify safety issues before they occur;
  • Providing funding of $35.7 million over 2 years to further strengthen Canada’s tanker safety regime, including ensuring appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness and response.
  • In certain confined Canadian waterways, tanker operators must take a marine pilot with local knowledge on board before entering a harbour or busy waterway, and in special circumstances, more stringent measures may be taken. This could, under certain circumstances, include requiring two pilots on board oil tankers, escort tugs, additional training standards, and navigational procedures, restrictions and routing measures;
  • New regulations enhancing the tanker inspection regime by strengthening vessel inspection requirements;
  • A review of handling process for oil products by an independent panel of international tanker safety experts;
  • Improved navigational products, such as updated charts for shipping routes;
  • In cooperation with provincial governments, allowing for greater use of regional environmental assessments to identify and address potential regional and cumulative effects, particularly in areas experiencing large-scale developments;
  • Making the conditions of Fisheries Act permits enforceable. This means proponents will have to comply with conditions set out in the authorizations or face penalties; and
  • Improving compliance and environmental protection by introducing enforceable conditions for permits under the Species at Risk Act. This means that project proponents may face financial penalties if they fail to comply with those conditions.

To conclude, I would like to note that we have ensured that this is the longest budget debate in the last 20 years. In fact, Bill C-38 has been debated in the House for over 5 weeks. The bill has now been referred to the all party finance committee where the bill will be further reviewed. The Finance Committee will be spending over 50 hours studying Bill C-38, and the Sub-committee studying Part 3 will spend 18 hours hearing from witnesses. We have and will continue to give the opposition the opportunity to debate Bill C-38; however we will also continue to act swiftly to take the necessary steps to guide the Canadian Economy towards long term prosperity.

Sincerely, Andrew Saxton, MP

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