MiningWatch Canada Applauds the Senate’s Sober Second Thought to Protect Environmental Assessment in Canada

(Ottawa)  After a day of lively discussion and submissions from many stakeholders, the Senate Finance Committee removed problematic, and non-budgetary aspects of Bill C9 - The Budget Implementation Bill. Section 20 of the bill, which proposes major changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was among the sections removed.

MiningWatch Canada’s Ramsey Hart, who presented to the Finance Committee on July 7, commented that “ We are very pleased with the sober second thought of Senators on the Finance Committee. They have sent a clear signal to the rest of the Senate and to House of Commons that this bill is  inappropriate in method and content.”

Following the decision, the Globe and Mail quoted Queen’s University parliamentary expert Ned Franks’ testimony where he called the bill “a dog’s breakfast”.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is due for statutory review this fall and MiningWatch, Ecojustice, Canadian Environmental Law Association, West Coast Environmental Law, and the Green Budget Coalition argued to the Committee that addressing concerns about environmental assessment is best done independent of the budget through it’s own, already planned process.

These groups also raised concerns about the substance of the bill. MiningWatch is particularly concerned about the amendment in C9 that would allow the Minister of the Environment to redefine projects so that only a portion of the project is evaluated by a federal environmental assessment. In January 2010 MiningWatch won a Supreme Court case that found that the government did not have the authority to redefine a project in this way. The case and its repercussions were the subject of much of the discussion in yesterday’s committee hearings. Prior to the Supreme court decision, government officials were exempting mining projects from federal environmental assessment by only reviewing portions of a mine project, such as waste disposal area, but not including the mine itself.

“Examining only a narrow portion of a project goes against the intent of federal environmental assessment, which is to use federal authority to promote sustainable development. Not examining a whole project also means that the public loses its voice on key development decisions. We encourage Senators to respect the Senate Finance Committee’s process and keep the Environmental Assessment Act out of the budget,” added Mr. Hart.

For more information contact: Ramsey Hart, ramsey(at) / 613-614-9937 or 613-569-3439
MiningWatch’s presentation to Senate Finance Committee
MiningWatch’s brief to House of Commons Finance Committee
MiningWatch’s Supreme Court Case