Canada's Original Think Tank

Third reading to Bill C-69, an Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protect Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Third reading to Bill C-69, an Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protect Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Third reading to Bill C-69, an Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protect Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Hon. Jane Cordy: 

Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to rise this evening to speak at third reading to Bill C-69, an Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protect Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I want to begin my remarks by thanking the chair of our committee, Senator Galvez, who chaired over 180 hours of testimony, and many more hours of in-camera meetings of our committee. I want to also thank all members of the committee for their very hard work along with the many other senators in this chamber who travelled and attended meetings as we studied this bill.

I also want to thank our two analysts, Jesse Good and Sam Banks, along with the Law Clerk’s Office and particularly our committee clerk, Maxime Fortin. With over 250 witnesses, 100 hours of testimony, travel to nine cities from coast-to-coast, organizing all this in addition to the 188 amendments passed by the committee took a Herculean effort on their part with a lot of long days and late nights to meet some very tight deadlines.

I thank them, each and everyone of them.

Honourable senators, as outlined by the government, the purpose of Bill C-69 is:

To improve rules and processes for the regulatory assessment and government evaluation of major resource projects. The bill’s aim is to enhance public trust in decisions about resource projects, and to provide industry, investors, and labour markets with greater certainty, more predictable timelines, and enhanced efficiency in project reviews. Bill C-69 will provide greater clarity on the approval process; underline the importance of scientific evidence in informing and guiding decision-making; better respect for Indigenous people’s constitutional rights and knowledge; and provide greater transparency and accountability for government decisions on resource project proposals. Bill C-69 addresses the need for competitiveness by enhancing the efficiency of environmental reviews by generally shortening timelines; identifying issues at an early stage so that problems can be addressed sooner; and entrenching the “one project, one review” regime.

During the election campaign of 2015, and in the Speech from the Throne of 2015, the government promised to re-examine the current environmental assessment processes. We have heard from many stakeholders that the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act of 2012, or CEAA 2012 as it is known, brought in by the previous government within an omnibus budget bill had many challenges.

Bill C-69 is a fulfilment of a promise made by this government.

The government made a commitment to ensure that Canadians’ voices would be heard and that Canadians would be consulted to produce a fair and balanced approach to impact assessments. This consultation was missing for CEAA 2012 because it was contained in a budget omnibus bill.

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Between January 2016 and February 2018, when Bill C-69 was introduced in the other place, the government conducted an exhaustive consultation process that involved an expert panel for reviewing federal environmental assessments and an expert panel for modernizing the National Energy Board. The panels met with over 1,000 stakeholders, received hundreds of submissions and visited communities from coast to coast.

Bill C-69 was developed taking into account the input from these stakeholders. The bill worked to find a fine balance of Indigenous rights and interests with environmental concerns and industry needs, while serving the Canadian economy — not an easy task.

Honourable senators, I believe that Bill C-69, as received from the other place, struck a good balance and introduced some long overdue changes to how major projects are assessed in Canada. I was particularly happy to see that gender-based analysis would be a mandatory condition of any major project assessment going forward.

It was disappointing to hear testimony from some witnesses and comments from some members of the committee who felt that gender-based analysis had no place in an impact assessment. But this was an opinion of the minority, as many other witnesses reinforced the need for gender-based analysis and the positive impact this has had on business. Many oil and gas companies have seen the value and benefits of gender-based analysis and it is now routine for them. This bill formalizes that practice and will ensure that gender-based analysis for impact assessments is the law.

Kara Flynn, Vice-President, Government and Public Affairs, Syncrude Canada Ltd., confirmed in her testimony the importance of gender-based analysis when the committee travelled to Fort McMurray. Gender-based analysis is not just the right thing to do, but in the end will produce more inclusive projects, stronger projects and better projects. It’s time for this practice to now be mandatory for all project assessments.

Honourable senators, Bill C-69 is not perfect, but perfect legislation is actually pretty rare. I believe that the bill attempted to find the right balance to meet environmental goals while at the same time ensuring our economic competitiveness.

We have heard from industry groups both supportive of the bill and opposed to the bill. We heard from environmental groups who are pleased with the steps taken in this bill and environmental groups who feel the bill does not go far enough.

Honourable senators, we have also heard from some Indigenous groups who support Bill C-69 and Indigenous groups that wanted changes to Bill C-69.

I heard the phrase “flawed bill” during debate in this chamber and during discussion during clause-by-clause in committee. But, honourable senators, let’s be honest; “flawed” is often used as code for being ideologically opposed to the government’s approach to this issue. The government went to extreme lengths to produce a policy that provides a balance between environmental concerns and economic competitiveness.

As I stated earlier, the government also consulted with over a thousand stakeholders and received hundreds of submissions in preparation for this legislation. The report of the committee, adopted by this chamber, contained a massive 188 amendments. Some of the amendments I agreed with and think they contribute to making a better bill. However, I believe many of the amendments that were directly submitted by the oil and gas industry tilt the balance of the bill too far in favour of the oil and gas industry. The result is the bill we are debating today. The promise to strengthen environmental protections and to develop an assessment process more inclusive of First Nations, Indigenous rights, environmental protection and community and industry may have been compromised.

Witnesses in Atlantic Canada have expressed concerns with provisions in Bill C-69 that provide significantly enhanced influence for the oil and gas industry on review panels of the offshore petroleum boards in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The petroleum boards are responsible for the development and management of oil and gas resources off the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Currently, under CEAA 2012, petroleum boards do not conduct impact assessments. However, Bill C-69 will give authority to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to refer an impact assessment to involve the petroleum boards of a designated project if the designated project includes physical activities that are regulated under the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act.

The bill will allow for the review panels to be chaired by a member of the petroleum boards. Ecology Action Centre argues that the ability to chair a review panel provides the oil and gas industry with too much influence on the final decisions of a review.

Honourable senators, this could lead to bias in the assessment of proposed projects, as the chair of the panel can be appointed from the very same board whose job it is to promote oil and gas projects in the region. Public trust in any review will always be tainted, as there will always be perceived bias in the process if it is chaired by the petroleum industry.

Solutions from witnesses on this imbalance ranged from all-out prohibiting offshore petroleum boards from sitting as members on the assessment review panels, to limiting their membership on panels, to prohibiting their ability to chair a review panel. We heard these arguments from witnesses, particularly when the committee travelled to the East Coast in St. John’s and Halifax.

Colin Sproul, President, Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association, addressed the issue of offshore petroleum boards’ influence on review panels when he appeared before the committee in Halifax. He said:

Provisions within the bill to shift authority for offshore impact assessments to offshore regulators must be removed if this legislation is to be supported by fishers and by coastal communities in Atlantic Canada.

He then went on to say:

It is important to note that today we have seen Mark Butler, a well-known representative of the conservation community, and Nathan Blades, a well-known representative of the fishery processing sector in Nova Scotia, come in concert with myself to defend our industry. I represent the harvesting sector. We have spent decades at loggerheads with each other over fishery-related issues in Nova Scotia, but we have found common ground on this issue.

In the bill passed by the House of Commons, the Canadian energy regulator and the nuclear commission could not chair an impact assessment review panel or constitute the majority on a panel. This stipulation helped to limit the influence these life-cycle regulators had on the decisions of the review panels, though this has now changed with the amendments passed on division at the Energy Committee.

I believe the right compromise is to keep the offshore petroleum boards’ involvement in assessment review panels in alignment with the other review panels as originally defined in Bill C-69. As witnesses testified, the role of the offshore petroleum boards in the review process is essentially the same as the Canadian energy regulator and the nuclear commission. It was felt that the offshore petroleum boards should follow the same restrictions in the review process.

Honourable senators, I believe some balance has to be returned to this bill, and I hope to restore some of that balance with the amendment that I am proposing. This amendment will prohibit the chairperson of the review panel to be appointed from the roster of the Canada-Nova Scotia and Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Boards.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Jane Cordy: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That Bill C-69, as amended, be not now read a third time, but that it be further amended,

(a)on page 94, in clause 6, by replacing line 34 with the following:

(4) The chairperson must not be appointed from the roster and the persons appointed from the roster must not con-”; and

(b)on page 95, in clause 7, by replacing line 23 with the following:

(4) The chairperson must not be appointed from the roster and the persons appointed from the roster must not con-”.