Elizabeth May rips Harper’s “Environmental Devastation Act” as “worst of all bills” in House speech

“Laws this bad take some explanation.”

No 477 Posted by fw, May 15, 2012

Ms May’s May 11, 2012 speech in the House of Commons, posted below, appeared on her parliamentary website under the title: Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act (Bill C-38). The quality of her performance continues to impress, drawing resounding praise from her many admirers. Here’s just a sample from three respondents:

  • “Thank you for this clear thinking. Mr Harper’s madness is becoming more and more apparent. Your voice is strong, sane, clear, intelligent and for all good.”
  • “Elizabeth May for PM! How we need you there!! Meanwhile, please keep up the work you do so well. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”
  • “Elizabeth, these are the words of lucidity. And I am concerned, because in the face of lucidity, we are governed, quite literally, by insanity. Power to you.”

Here’s a reposting of May’s speech, including a 10-minute video of her delivery, under the title she used in an email to her subscribers —

Bill C-38: Environmental Devastation Act, House of Commons, May 11, 2012


Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-38. I am very sad, because this bill is the worst of all bills of this House, for two reasons.

First, because the government has chosen to introduce fundamental changes to many laws that affect the environmental, social and economic life of Canada, without consultation and in a way that is illegitimate and scandalous. This process is unacceptable and against true democracy.

Second, beyond the process that is so offensive, this bill that purports to be a budget bill is, in substance, something quite different. The substance of the changes is equally alarming.

Laws this bad take some explanation. As I have sat through the truncated debate on this process at second reading, what we have had are presentations from the government side, the Conservative MPs, basically providing lists of things they like in the legislation, and from the opposition benches, lists of things we do not like in this legislation.

I think that leaves out a big piece of the puzzle. We have also been confusing measures that are actually budget measures that are not in Bill C-38, things like fighting the deficit, and things we do not like, like killing the Centre for Plant Health in my own riding which is necessary to protect the health of the economy, particularly in the grape-growing regions and wineries, and killing jobs in national parks, again in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Gulf Islands National Park jobs in ecological work.

However, again, these are not in Bill C-38. The debate has been combatting lists. We like this; we hate this. I want to step back and try to understand what is going on here. Why do we have this enormous package of measures, most of the substantial changes being those that unravel environmental law in this country?

I have been involved in the development of most of the laws that we now see being unravelled, particularly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the National Round Table Act, and what I see behind all this is a shift in mindset.

I worked in the Mulroney government. The Progressive Conservatives understood that conserving involved conserving the environment. This is not necessarily the current mindset of the current brand of conservatism, which I find alien from the traditions and roots of people like former fisheries ministers John Fraser and Tom Siddon. Both have spoken out against the devastating changes to the protection of fish habitat in Bill C-38 and the unintended consequences that this will surely have.

This mindset reminds me most of what the former senior economist to the World Bank, Herman Daly, used to describe as “treating the earth as a business in liquidation”, an everything-must-go mentality and it must be done fast. He offered the opposite view. He said that we needed to understand that the economy was a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, that these things were not in conflict and that it was so wrong-headed to say that we would only get jobs if we destroyed the environment. It boggles the mind.

When we understand that this is the way this entire omnibus budget bill has been prepared, then it begins to make sense. Then we understand the narrative and then we can understand that someone in the PMO picked up the phone, called the Department of Justice or maybe just sent an email, said that it should find all those things for which the federal government is responsible for the environment and find ways to withdraw from them to the maximum extent possible without offending constitutional requirements to protect such things as migratory birds, because we have a convention with the U.S., or fisheries, because that is in the Constitution.

For example, there is no other way to understand why the Conservatives repealed the Environmental Assessment Act and put in place an entirely new act. Most of what we have heard is that they wanted to have timely assessments. I do not think there would be much debate over that.

In 2005 I proposed to the minister of the environment that in order to get a review of the proposed cleanup at the Sydney tar ponds, which itself presented risks, a timeline would be a good idea. In fact, a 12-month timeline was put in place for the joint review panel of the cleanup proposed for the Sydney tar ponds back in 2005. That could be done under the existing legislation. We do not need to repeal the act and start over.

To all these complaints, the Conservatives claim that industry was demanding this be done, I have in front of me a briefing note from the Mining Association of Canada from January of this year in which it praises the current process under Environmental Assessment Review. It says, “the amendments that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act made in 2010 were implemented quickly and competently by the agency” and it has “provided mining project proponents with relief”. It says that for the first time “provincial and federal assessments are synchronized”. This is from the Mining Association of Canada, allegedly one of the interest groups for whom the Conservative government is destroying all of our environmental laws. The Mining Association of Canada says, “our primary interest in the review of the Environmental Assessment Act is to convey support for the new system brought in…and to renew funding for the Environmental Assessment Agency”.

It is critical to understand that the government did not have to repeal the Environmental Assessment Act in order to have a process that worked for all the players. It looks as though this desperate attempt to be in a hurry is where the problem lies. What the government has done is so egregious. The Environmental Assessment Act being repealed and replaced with a whole new scheme that will never get proper review through the process we have in an omnibus project.

The Conservatives are removing what had always been a federal trigger for a proper environmental assessment, if federal money was being spent. That is no longer there. They are removing comprehensive studies. They are no longer there.

There is no real definition of what an environmental assessment would be. We have a reference in the budget document to something called a “standard environmental assessment”, but Bill C-38 has removed all definitions of what the process would look like.

Killing the comprehensive studies and creating panels that can be substituted with the province without criteria, in my view, would have the industry coming to government asking what it had done as the process had worked pretty well. In fact, the Mining Association of Canada says, “very well”. Now we will not know what project has to go to review or what project does not, when we go to the province or when we do not.

At the same time, in order to unravel the federal responsibilities that trigger an environmental assessment, the government has created a crazy scheme for fisheries. It still requires a permit to add substances “deleterious” to fish, but the protections for fish habitat have been removed.

This means, and as we all know this is a real-life example, that if one wanted to have a large-scale project, for instance, to put tailings into an existing lake, we would be better off, if the lake were in a remote area where no one fishes, to drain the whole lake, kill all the fish and destroy the habitat because that would be legal without an authorization. Whereas adding substances “deleterious” to fish into a lake currently would require authorization. This is the ultimate example of haste makes waste.

The bill has not properly contemplated the changes to the Fisheries Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, or the changes to the Species at Risk Act. The bill is out of control through the false notion that we will create jobs through waste and haste.

I remind people that it is now 20 years since the Westray disaster in which 26 men died. There was no environmental review at that time, as it was back in 1988 when the project was approved, but there were warnings. The experts in the department of mines said that the area was too high in methane, but no, the local politicians and some federal politicians wanted those jobs. They wanted them so badly that they overrode expert advice. They said that they had to get that Westray mine built come hell or high water, that they would do it and that they did not want to hear complaints about causes or what might happen to get in the way. Therefore, federal money flowed. We created a bomb and put men in it, and 26 men died.

Now we are creating another kind of bomb. The first speaker on the bill was not the Minister of Finance, but the Minister of Natural Resources who brought forward all the reasons to change the scheme. He said that we must hurry as there was no time to waste. He quoted from the International Energy Agency on the current state of fossil fuel requirements around the world, but he never quoted the warning from the International Energy Agency that if we did not act on the climate crisis, it would soon be too late. The quote from the International Energy Agency from earlier this year is this, “Delaying action is a false economy. As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the ‘lock-in’ of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals”. We must change direction. This bill is putting pedal to the metal to go as fast as possible to a very large brick wall.

Going back to the bomb we built for the men at Westray, we are now building a climate bomb, a carbon bomb. The proposed legislation is so wrong-headed it must be withdrawn in its entirety.

Fair Use Notice: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

Elizabeth May skewers Harper & Co. in hilarious derision of infamous budget bill

“None of this is funny. It is an outrage. PLEASE, if you are angry, say so.”

No 471 Posted by fw, May 8, 2012

Elizabeth May has flair, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster parliament. Moreover, she’s a joy to read. Judge for yourself in this recent witty post on her blog.

Elizabeth May: Bill C-38? You have to be kidding, May 3, 2012

Okay, agreed. There’s is nothing about Stephen Harper that suggests he is a big joker. He doesn’t speak in public except in modulated monotones. Very reassuring, like Prozac. No off-script moments of hilarity. No pirouettes in the hallways.

But I had to wonder. Was he going for political satire? Some sort of self-referential pop cultural joke in kicking off the budget implementation bill debate? I mean, he must have read Andrew Coyne’s piece in the National Post. Noting that a huge number of non-budgetary matters are stuffed in the over 420 pages of C-38, much of it dramatically changing environmental laws, Coyne wrote, “This is not remotely a budget bill, despite its name,” further noting that while throwing non-budgetary matters into a budget bill is not unknown, in C-38, “The scale and scope are on a level not previously seen, or tolerated.”

(Or if the PM didn’t read it, he must have people who read it for him and left post-it notes somewhere he would see saying, “Coyne and others seem to have noticed the budget bill is crammed full of new laws to remove environmental protection. Offence to democracy alleged…must deflect.”)

No sign of recognizing anger is stirring across the land. They went for the Full Monty as it were. No shame.

The kick-off speaker to the Budget Implementation Bill? Not the Minister of Finance. No sir. What would Flaherty have to say about a budget bill anyway? The lead Conservative Speaker was Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. Say it ain’t so, Joe.

He gave the standard Harper “energy super power” message. It goes like this:

Canada is an energy super-power — in the same way a business in bankruptcy is a super-power. Everything must go. We are running out of time to sell everything fast. Oil-hungry markets won’t wait.

Really? “We need to act quickly,” said Joe Oliver in the House today. But the existing pipeline infrastructure is, according to Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers projections, sufficient to meet demand until oil sands production expands by 150 per cent. (Testimony of former government petroleum geologist, J. David Hughes, to the NEB Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project).

Minister Oliver cited many statistics from the International Energy Agency (IEA), establishing that the world is energy-hungry and oil-thirsty…without once mentioning the IEA urgent warnings about the climate crisis. The IEA is screaming from the rooftops (figuratively speaking, but the reports are increasingly frantic) that time is running out to reduce dependency on fossil fuels to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change at its worst. No reference either to Mr. Harper’s promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies (now there’s a budget measure), promised in 2009 at the G-20, underscored in every IEA report as an urgent step, which the PM has steadfastly ignored. No reference to the International Energy Agency advice that Canada needs to put a price on carbon.

And then for more laughs, in answer to a question from one of his colleagues, Mr. Oliver said, “Mr. Speaker, the whole point of this exercise is to ensure that we have a robust environmental review of major projects… under the aegis of the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency.”

Now, in fairness to Mr. Oliver, there is no particular reason he should know much about the environmental laws C-38 is destroying. He is not the author of this strategy; the Prime Minister is. And the fact that Canada doesn’t have an agency called the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency is not something he has to know…Peter Kent should know it, and, of course, he spoke next. No sign of the finance minister…but what would he have to contribute to a debate about freeing the oilsands and mining from the tyranny of environmental laws. I expected to hear, “Free at last, free at last…” from some conservative script, recycling the end of the long-gun registry invocation of the Rev. Martin Luther King in more triumphalist Libertarian oratory.

With 420 pages plus of detailed, complex and sweeping changes to laws originally passed decades ago, any thought that there was even a hint of shame in the Conservative strategy was dashed. Within the first hours of debate, Peter Van Loan made a motion to invoke time allocation on Bill C-38. After all, we are in a hurry.

None of this is funny. It is an outrage. PLEASE, if you are angry, say so. Please insist that your MP work to pull the environmental laws impacted by this bill (Canadian Environmental Assessment Act*, Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, National Round Table on Environment and Economy Act*, Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act*), out of the so-called budget bill.

(Note: the bills marked with * are repealed in C-38. CEAA is replaced with a brand new, gutted version of environmental assessment law, which, at this rate will be passed by the end of June — without a single day of hearings before the environment committee).

Fair Use Notice: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

Stephen “Ethical Oil” Harper’s Budget Screws Mother Earth

Budget screws the planet for short-term gains

No 449 Posted by fw, April 1, 2012

"Ethical Oil" Harper (Image source: http://hamilton350.com/)

“This is known in the budget as “responsible resource development.” This perverse label includes putting hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – pretty much the opposite of being responsible. Our penchant for planetary destruction just cannot happen fast enough. Under the mantra “one project, one review” environmental considerations will get lumped in with everything else, meaning that review processes for destructive mining and oil and gas projects will be fast-tracked.”Marc Lee, CCPA

If the title of this post offends, it is intended to. It reflects my profound disrespect for a Prime Minister whose budget effectively mirrors his cold, calculating disregard for the “. . . more than 1,000,000 people per year [that are killed] from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.” (Source of quote: Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature by James Hansen, et al).

Here, in bulleted format, is my summary of two critiques of those aspects of Stephen “Ethical Oil” Harper’s Economic Action Plan 2012 that are, to paraphrase Marc Lee, “perversely labeled as ‘responsible resource development.’”

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Critique

A budget that screws the planet for short-term profits, by Marc Lee, Behind the Numbers: A blog from the CCPA, March 29, 2012.

  • Guts environmental assessment – this is a framework economic document that includes gutting of environmental assessment in the name of the economy.
  • A colonial vision of the economy as a quarry for foreign interests
  • Resource giveaway — the country is to open to any foreign investor who wants our resources, and Canadians will politely have to clean up the mess afterwards.
  • McJobs budget — there will be some Canadian jobs in all of this, most of them will be of short duration in the construction phase
  • Uses atmosphere as a C02 Dump — known in the budget [as] “responsible resource development” . . . . This perverse label includes putting hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – pretty much the opposite of being responsible
  • Fast track to planetary destruction — our penchant for planetary destruction just cannot happen fast enough. . . . environmental considerations will get lumped in with everything else, meaning that review processes for destructive mining and oil and gas projects will be fast-tracked
  • Major economic projects reflect obscene priorities — the six projects highlighted as “major economic projects” — three oil and gas pipelines, a gold mine and a uranium mine — are indicative of the government’s priorities. . . . Major Projects Office currently has 70 projects on file, and the budget foresees 500 projects over the coming decade.
  • Document full of euphoric exaggeration – “oil sands … [will] generate wealth that benefits all Canadians” . . . “Canadians will only reap the benefits that come from our natural resources if investments are made by the private sector to bring the resources to market”
  • Paradoxically, few jobs in resource sector — As for “jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” . . . there are few jobs in the resource sector areas under consideration (mostly mining and oil and gas projects)
  • As for “long-term” — this measure is focused on very short-term liquidation of Canadian resources for hefty profits but that imperil people in other countries and in the future.
  • Environmental protection slashed — protecting the environment is also taking a hit as part of overall spending cuts . . .  Environment Canada will get cut by $20 million in 2012/13 rising to $88 million in 2014/15 (an 8% cut). . . . Parks Canada gets a $6 million cut this year, rising to $29 million in 2014/15.
  • Indispensable environmental research body scrapped — The National Roundtable on the Economy and the Environment (NRTEE) has been scrapped, ostensibly because of an “expanded community of environmental stakeholders has demonstrated the capacity to provide analysis and policy advice to the Government” (NRTEE was one of the few federal voices that have acknowledged the challenge of climate change in a series of reports, while calling for action to reduce emissions, studying measures of doing so and making estimates of anticipated climate-related damages to the Canadian economy in future years. Their contributions clearly were not welcome in “don’t ask, don’t tell” Ottawa, and will be missed).
  • “Climate” now a four-letter wordthe term “climate” appears four times in the budget. Twice there is a passing reference to climate change, but really an afterthought. The other two times are in reference to investment climate.


Pembina Organization’s Critique

Budget 2012: Canada won’t spare a penny for clean energy by Ed Whittingham, March 30, 2012

  • Harper’s Doublespeak — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have been doggedly selling Canada as a “clean energy superpower”. While those words have always rung hollow to anybody tracking the global rise of the $1 trillion clean energy economy, after yesterday’s federal budget they simply ring false.
  • One Big Step forward for Tar Sands, One Big Step backwards for humanityThe federal budget . . . will take Canada several steps further from environmentally responsible development of fossil fuel resources like the oilsands, while simultaneously undercutting progress on renewable energy and efficiency.
  • Tar Sands – From Bad to WorseWhen it comes to assessing and addressing the environmental impacts of oilsands development, things are poised to go from bad to worse
  • Cuts to length of environmental reviewsNew federal limits on the length of environmental review processes would also apply to projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline
  • Slash Environmental Assessmentthe Harper government is slashing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s budget by 40 per cent and imposing arbitrary new timelines for the regulatory review of major industrial projects
  • Changes to be retroactive — Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has confirmed changes will be applied to reviews on projects that are already underway, like the Northern Gateway pipeline review
  • Harper’s “Faster is better” rule the federal government’s new standard is not how well environmental assessment is done, but how fast. If this, my friends, is “responsible resource development” (the latest catchphrase out of Ottawa) then we’re in serious disagreement about the meaning of the word “responsible.”
  • Fossil fuel industry still benefiting from past tax subsidies — federal subsidies to oil in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador totaled nearly $1.4 billion in 2009. There remains a significant amount of foregone tax revenue from the oil and gas sector.
  • Harper screws the vulnerable — it’s hardly surprising that the government has decided to shut the doors of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE). . . . NRTEE has been “the only national organization with a direct mandate from Parliament to engage Canadians in the generation and promotion of sustainable development advice and solutions.” Wiping out this respected think-tank while Canada still lacks a credible plan for achieving its own 2020 greenhouse has reduction targets will make it that much harder for Canada to do its fair share in addressing the climate challenge.
  • No support for renewables — Budget 2012 contains no new federal support for residential renewable power generation or energy efficiency improvements
  • Won’t meet 2020 targets — In 2010 [Pembina] estimated that Canada needed a tenfold increase in renewable power production to hit the federal government’s 2020 target of producing 90 per cent of its electricity from sources that don’t produce greenhouse gas pollution. . . . this budget doesn’t reflect the level of effort that’s needed to achieve that target.
  • Plug pulled on ecoEnergy Retrofit program — no new energy efficiency initiatives were identified in the 2012 budget, and the ecoENERGY Retrofit—Homes program (which encouraged efficiency improvements in Canadian homes), was unexpectedly wrapped up early this year.
  • Overall, a Big Step Backwards — It’s clear the government has spared hardly a penny for clean energy, choosing instead to encourage and expedite decidedly irresponsible energy production. When you roll it up, Budget 2012 is a near bust for clean energy and a step backwards in protecting the environment for Canadians.
Fair Use Notice: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.