2012-06-15 AWA News Release: Open Letter to PM Harper on Bill C-38
AWA released an open letter today to Prime Minister Harper expressing our deep concern with the process and proposed changes in environmental laws of the omnibus budget, Bill C-38.
Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
June 15, 2012
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
I am writing on behalf of Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) to express our extreme concern with the changes proposed in the current federal budget, Bill C-38. These concerns are in no way limited to our organization. Criticism of the process and substance of the omnibus legislation has echoed across all corners of the country over the last month. A diverse and growing number of Canadians, including two former federal Conservative Fisheries ministers, have called for the separation of the budget’s non-budgetary sections and appropriate consideration by the House of Commons of its impacts. Contained within Bill C-38 are changes to dozens of Acts of Parliament, most with little or nothing to do with budgetary matters but with profound impacts to issues close to the hearts of many Canadians.
On June 18 the government will vote third reading of a bill that, if passed, will dismantle the most effective legislative environmental safeguards in Canada. Although this omnibus bill has been rationalized by claims of promoting prosperity, such rhetoric does little to explain how this can be achieved while simultaneously undermining for future generations a foundation of our quality of life: our environment.
Of the proposed budget, AWA is most concerned with the following three aspects:
1. Poor process: The 420 page budget bill will amend 60 laws and eliminate 6 others. Almost two-thirds of the bill is concerned with major environmental laws. We ask you to listen to the wide cross-section of thoughtful Canadians calling on you to remove non-budgetary changes from the budget in order to restore Parliament and Canadians’ role in considering changes to important environmental laws.
2. Weaker Environmental Assessments (EAs): EAs are supposed to ensure that individual and cumulative impacts of development projects are understood beforehand and reduced. We ask you not to remove from law the definition of which projects must receive EAs, leaving the decision to ministerial discretion, and not to let provincial reviews substitute for federal ones. The Supreme Court confirmed in 2010 that there was no duplication and that the current law already promoted good cooperation with provinces.
3. Weaker fish-bearing water protection: What is good for aquatic life is good for our own water security: healthy rivers protect water quality, prevent floods and prevent droughts. Since 1977, the Fisheries Act has protected fish habitat. We ask you to strengthen, not weaken, measures in the Act to protect Canada’s fish habitat and enhance Fisheries and Oceans’ scientific and regulatory capacity.
The passage of Bill C-38 will signal that our government is willing to compromise democratic process, rigorous assessment of major industrial projects, and long-term water security, for arguably short-sighted economic impetus. Our health and well-being in years to come and for future generations may very well be on the line with the changes you are making to our regulatory and environmental standards.
We ask that you reply to us at your earliest convenience to provide more thoughtful insight into your plans and vision for the legacy we will leave our children.
ALBERTA WILDERNESS ASSOCIATION