My Rebuttal to my MP’s reply concerning the Canadian Omnibus Bill C-38

Click here to see my original letter to my MP

Click here to see my MP’s reply to back to me.

Dear MP Saxton,

Thank you for responding so quickly.  My response, however, is a bit delayed as I prefer to get my facts straight.  I am quite impressed at the quick response, though I know, having worked with very busy people, your letter is one having the smell of a slightly altered template; however, the benefit of the doubt I willingly give.

So let us go paragraph by paragraph.

First off I want to get pass this word “Omnibus”.  Dictionaries describe it as, ‘containing or including many items.’  But I prefer and quite enjoyed the definition I found on a legal reference site: ‘Sometimes, a government can slip in a substantial change in legislation and present an omnibus bill as an “all or nothing” tactic.’  Oh how this does fit, doesn’t it?  How about this, your government (this I say as I was one of 60% who did not vote for your government) has clearly opened a sack, called it a budget bill, and dumped in a multitude of act changes that, if things were logical and proper, should each have had their own legislation with allowance for full debate.  Indeed this is suitable, but I’ll have more about “the debate” later.

Let’s get on to the C-38 changes to the Canada’s environmental review process.  You make wide-sweeping statements about environmental review, and how it, ‘does not serve the cause of environmental protection as well as it should’, and how you want to, ‘to ensure liability’, accountability and such.

Let me make a small list of changes you are making to the environmental act (the following is information obtained from various sources including but not limited to the Green Party of Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and others).

On the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency:  Environmental Assessments are no longer required for projects involving federal money.  Oh and how the Minister responsible is given wide discretion to decide and new “substitution” rules allowing Ottawa to download EAs to the provinces with “comprehensive” studies being eliminated.  Then how about this, Cabinet will be able to over-rule decisions.  A retroactive section sets the clock at July 2010 for existing projects!

Almost fell off my chair when I read this.  So, as it states, ANY project with federal funding does not need an environmental assessment?  Any Canadian above the age of four could clearly understand this means the emphasis is now money (in the mask of short-term “jobs” and “economic development”) no matter the devastation heaped upon the environment.

So you, as a Canadian, nevertheless a human being living in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the world agree with this?  Oh how this stinks of blatant disregard for Canada’s already fragile environment.  But let’s move on.

In the Canadian Environmental Protect Act:  The present one-year limit to permits for disposing waste at sea can now be renewed four times.   The three and five-year time limits protecting Species at Risk from industrial harm will now be open-ended.

Open-ended? How is it possible that anything is open-ended when it comes to the environment?  Clearly, again, your government is throwing out the hard-won protection to our environment.  If I were a wiser man, I would say that this is clearly making it easier for the multinational oil tanker leviathans to ply BC’s costal waters.

Let us move onto the Fisheries Act:  Fish habitat provisions will be changed to protect only fish of “commercial, Aboriginal, and recreational” value and even those habitat protections are weakened.  The new provisions create an incentive to drain a lake and kill all the fish, if not in a fishery, in order to fill a dry hole with mining tailings.  Oh and don’t forget how you want to change the rules to there is less “buffer” between sensitive fisheries and commercial land.

I work for a First Nation, while I do not speak for them, I have learnt many things from their actions.  If you know, and not ignore, Canadian history, the First Nation’s have fought wearying to hold a strong hand when it comes to the environment around them.  The Nation I work for has ensured that the river and tributaries they are next to were cleaned up to reestablish a safe place for fish to live.  How heart-breaking it is that your government wishes to throw all this out the window for a few years of economic prosperity.  Prosperity for you and the boardrooms, not for any First Nation and certainly not for the average Canadian.

So for the Navigable Waters Protection Act:  Pipelines and power lines will be exempt from the provisions of this Act.  Also, the National Energy Board absorbs the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) whenever a pipeline crosses navigable waters.  The NWPA is amended to say a pipeline is not a “work” within that Act.  Oh and let me add how the Canadian Oil and Gas Operations Act will be changed to exempt pipelines from the Navigational Waters Protection Act.

Really MP Saxton, your government is all for caring about the environment and ensuring its protection?  Quite clear to me it is about getting that Northern Gateway and Keystone pipelines (and likely others yet to be mentioned) in and less, well nothing really, about protecting the environment.

Let’s move on to what you noted about the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and National Energy Board Act.  So they will face ‘tough’ financial penalties of up to $400,000?  Sorry but this is a joke.  Leveling a fine that is likely one-tenth of one percent of the budget of such major projects is nonsense.  How about shutting them down until they comply.  Far better, far more expensive to any builder!

I could go point by point on your ‘measures’ but let me to make this one blanket note:

So you want to ‘include participation by public directly affected’.  Really, have you not read the above part where you bypass and exempt many things from Act jurisdiction, so what’s the point of the ‘public’ processes?  Then when you do “include participation” it is usually in the form of a bureaucrat sitting at a table in a hall listening to the concerns.  Look at the gateway consultations.  It’s a joke!

So you want to give federal inspectors the authority to make sure an environmental assessment decisions are followed?  I find this odd, you’ve by-passed so many environmental assessments processes that whatever is assessed would likely have no teeth anyway.

So, again, monetary penalties.  Again, why penalize pennies (the elimination of which are in the bill too, aren’t they) when, again, it is far better to shut them down until they comply.  I see these monetary penalties as nothing more than a tut-tutting, wagging finger while the project’s allowed to continue.  They simply include the ‘fines’ in their budgets and keep on.

On your point about a ‘… safeguard, providing the Minister of the Environment authority to order an assessment for any project subject to federal jurisdiction.’  My answer is again refer to: “Environmental Assessments are no longer required for projects involving federal money.”

The two next points actually made me laugh out loud: “Providing $13.5 million over 2 years to improve pipeline safety across Canada…” and “Providing funding of $35.7 million over 2 years to further strengthen Canada’s tanker safety regime…”

So improving pipeline and tanker safety.  Hmmmm… again the millions that it takes to build and maintain such projects, it is easy math to know six million a year ain’t gonna cut it.  And it is to laugh that another pittance of 17 million a year to strengthen the tanker safety regime?

I’m gonna say it and you can’t stop me, the cost of the Exxon Valdrez (and this is only one spill of many throughout the world) is in the billions and still ongoing.  So WHEN a spill in a hard-to-reach, remote area of BC happens on the pipeline, and WHEN a ship tears through it’s second hull to dump their oil.  How is such a pittance going to help then?  Can you explain this to me?  And please do not use the toe-the-line, got the stats and figures right from the oil company, argument that such a spill will not happen in a thousand years.  That is not only blatant lie, but an insult to my intelligence!

Oh how lucky, today I found an excellent example of ‘pipeline safety’: Crews work to contain spill from oil pipeline near Sundre after leak enters Red Deer River tributary.  Don’t think I need to add more there.

Working first hand with a First Nation I see their outrage over the changes to the Environmental Act and how your government is going to drag the entire environmental assessment processes and protection back forty years.  Nice.

I’d go through the rest of your points but frankly they are all about various review processes that will, with the above changes to the Acts, have no teeth nor little enforcement.

Let me now please refer to your concluding paragraph where make a flourish of statements about the longest debate in the last 20 years and all-party reviews, etc., etc.

My response to this, please allow me to refer a small slice of MP Elizabeth May speech in the house on June 4, 2012 (You can read her entire speech here on macleans.ca “Beyond and Commons with Aaron Wherry” where Ms. May makes the point of how this “Omnibus” bill is not only improper to the parliamentary process but: “… Bill C-38 does not have a “theme of relevancy,” “one basic principle or purpose,” nor does it arise from a “single policy decision.

I anticipate that the Conservative Privy Council Officers will respond that its theme is the budget.  It is titled “An act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.”

A budget is no longer a fiscal statement comprising changes to the Income Tax Act and other tax measures.  It is understood to be a policy statement, and, as such, a policy statement that can be considered a theme.

Commentators have warned that this trend undermines the role of Parliament in proper oversight of the public purse and of individual pieces of legislation.  Professor Ned (C.E.S.) Franks, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University, wrote in 2010 that:  Canadian budget implementation acts… have morphed from short bills dealing with minor items mentioned in the budget speech to enormous omnibus bills…. Parliament cannot study them properly….These omnibus budget implementation bills subvert and evade the normal principles of parliamentary review of legislation. (“Omnibus bills subvert our legislative process,”  Globe and Mail, July 14, 2010).

As the anti-democratic risks of omnibus bills draw greater scrutiny, the links to policy must not be accepted on faith.  Nor should they be loose or sloppy in analysis.  Much rides on knowing that there is a legitimate link between the measures in an omnibus budget bill and the budget itself.  If the link is not there, the legislation fails to meet the tests of an omnibus bill.”

I cannot agree more Ms. May’s statements MP Saxton.

To close, I would like to say the all politics is smoke, mirrors and words spoken above heads as if to children.  Through Omnibus Bill C-38, your government, MP Saxton, has chosen a path of improper abuse of a majority government, of any government if I may be so plain.  As you say your government, ‘continue(s) to act swiftly to take the necessary steps to guide the Canadian Economy towards long-term prosperity.’  No MP Saxton, such steps are about the Economy and for short-term gain (with in the bounds of your mandated term) and decreed to leave a legacy of long-term pain for anyone else, willing or not, to take over the reins after you.  Because, by the next election I am quite confident, as history has repeated many times, the majority you now enjoy, will be quite spent and done.

Sincerely,
Dale Lessoway
Your considerably sadder constituent

NOTE: This opinion does not represent anyone person, a group of people or corporation, First Nation or any other entity, as this opinion is entirely my own.

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