The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association used its clout with the sleazy government of Sideshow Steve Harper to modify the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Greenpeace used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the truth.
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association met with senior government
officials in the fall of 2011, urging them not just to streamline
environmental assessments, but also to bring in "new regulations under
(the) Navigable Waters Protection Act," a CEPA slide presentation shows.
copy of the Oct. 27 presentation made to then-deputy minister of trade
Louis Levesque was obtained by Greenpeace Canada and shared with The
With so many of the pipeline-related rules in flux, the
CEPA board of directors decided to hold its fall strategy meeting in
Ottawa, and meet with Levesque at the same time.
The first budget
omnibus bill in June contained a replacement for the Environmental
Assessment Act and also a provision to remove pipelines and power lines
from provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Predictably,
reaction from environmentalists was negative, while business and the
natural resource sector reacted positively to the changes.
then the government surprised many close observers by going even further
in a second omnibus bill, C-45. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was
changed to the Navigation Protection Act, significantly reducing its
scope over Canada's waters.
Transport Minister Denis Lebel has
argued that the changes were in response to demands from municipalities,
who found that the act was tying them up in red tape as they tried to
build bridges and culverts, said spokesman Mike Winterburn.
over the decades, the act — originally written in 1882 — had morphed
into a central pillar of environmental legislation. Critics say the
major changes in C-45 were never discussed in that context.
"I never really knew where this call for change came from," said NDP environment critic Megan Leslie.
the time, the House of Commons environment committee was reviewing the
Environmental Assessment Act, and the need for changes did not come up
despite vibrant discussions about how to streamline approvals for
resource development, she said.
"It was never in any documents, it
was never an addendum to testimony or anything like that. And in some
private meetings I've had with some industry reps, they too have
expressed to me that they don't know why the Navigable Waters Act
changes were made."
While Leslie said it's perfectly acceptable
for industry groups to present the government with lists of policy
recommendations, "what's not normal is that those changes are accepted
holus-bolus, without any consultation."
The changes prompted
another outcry late last year from environmentalists, who were then
joined by First Nations across the country who took to the streets in
Now, as U.S. President Barack Obama has signalled his
intention to focus on climate change, the Harper cabinet is scrambling
to tout its green credentials and prove the worthiness of Canadian
pipelines — especially since Obama's decision on the Keystone XL
pipeline is pending.
Greenpeace Canada's climate and energy
co-ordinator, Keith Stewart, wonders if the government and the pipeline
industry are having any regrets, given the push-back.
"I think it's a case of 'be careful what you ask for,'" he said.
the pipeline industry and the federal government want faster approvals
as well as "social licence" in the form of positive public support. But
achieving the first goal is limiting their ability to achieve the second
goal, he added.
"The pipeline companies ultimately got the kind
of changes they wanted to Environmental Assessment legislation and the
Navigable Waters Protection Act in the 2012 budget omnibus bills. This
may prove to be a pyrrhic victory, however."