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06/04/2012 02:09 PM     print story email story  

Harper Budget Overturns Canada's Environmental Laws for Oil Industry News

Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and today are Black Outing their websites with Speak Out actions, joining groups from across Canada, the First Nations and the European Union, in a symbolic protest of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government's attack on nature and democracy.

Sierra Club's home page says: Tar Sands is Destroying Canada's Environment and Poisoning It's Politics.

They say: "The attacks come in sweeping budget legislation that, to prevent debate, touches on everything from environmental rules to immigration; pensions to student groups. Its unprecedented scope has been roundly condemned by voices from the left and right as fundamentally undemocratic. Parliamentary debate has also been shortened by Harper."

A Washington Post headline reads: Canadian government overhauling environmental rules to aid oil extraction.

A big reason why there's such a rush is oil interests at play, say the groups. "Working in close coordination with oil company lobbyists and industry front groups, the Harper government is attempting to silence public interest groups - all the while working to rollback longstanding Canadian environmental protections, slash environmental enforcement and eliminate independent oversight of the environmental decision-making process."

Reuters reports: "The pro-development Conservative government seeks to restrict who can appear before regulatory panels. The new rules come after more than 4,000 people registered to comment at hearings into Enbridge Inc's controversial Northern Gateway [tar sands] pipeline, which would move crude from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast for shipment to lucrative markets in Asia."

First Nations groups have been protesting the proposed 1177-kilometre pipeline, 25% of which runs through their land, including critical watersheds.

"Canada - once an example for other countries on this planet - is in danger of letting tar sands greed undermine its democratic traditions," says Bill McKibben,

"This attack on democracy and nature starts in Canada, but the multi-national oil industry is pushing tar sands to markets in the US and abroad, attacking any clean energy policies in their way," says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC international program director.

"If our leaders want to pin all their hopes and our future on a twinned pipeline through Alberta and B.C. to ship raw tar sands bitumen to China, then Canadians at least deserve a proper conversation about it. We've seen recent signs of hope, with the Alberta government calling for a national energy strategy, for example, and with people in the media and elsewhere questioning the wisdom of employing an omnibus budget act to gut environmental laws and attack charitable organizations," says David Suzuki, noted scientist and author.

"With continued suppression of those who speak out about the environment and women's and human rights, along with muzzling of government scientists and cuts to government scientific and environmental programs and departments, it's clear we're facing a growing campaign to silence opposition," he says.

Canada's Pembina Insitute has blacked out its website along with 500 other groups.

They say: the Federal Government is pushing through a massive budget bill (C-38) that undemocratically weakens or removes many of Canada's most important environmental protections, without input from the people these changes will impact the most. This bill also attempts to silence charities and other Canadian voices who speak out for our environment and other important issues.

Under the proposed bill, Ottawa will use its power to promote oil and other major industries instead of taking care of Canada's environment, wildlife and people.

Pembina points to these five items as most critical:

Targeting Non-Profits: The legislation appropriates $8 million in new funds for the Canada Revenue Agency to audit environmental groups and others for simply exercising their legal right to advocate for actions that fight global warming and other issues. This will have a chilling effect on democratic debate. Under the new laws, citizen groups will likely be shut out of environmental reviews of big projects like oil pipelines. Key government agencies with expertise will also have less input. Well-funded backroom lobbyists and political operatives will have greater influence.

Canadians' participation cut off: Instead of following the established process for making sweeping changes, which allows for thorough public debate, these changes are being shoehorned into a massive budget law.

Replaces Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with a totally new law: Under it, Ottawa will play a much smaller role in protecting people from harmful projects, while retaining the right to basically rubber-stamp big projects that powerful oil interests want. And the new weaker rules are being applied to review processes that are already underway, giving the Enbridge Northern Gateway tankers and pipeline projects an easier ride.

Too much power is in the hands of too few. The National Energy Board will no longer be able to say "no" to oil pipeline projects that are not in the public interest. Politicians in Cabinet will be able to overrule the expert energy regulator if powerful oil interests don't like its decision. Permits that allow the destruction of habitat for fish and threatened or endangered species will now be issued behind closed doors without public scrutiny, if they are required at all.

Trusted advisors to government that provide high-quality analysis for balanced policy are being ignored. The 2012 budget eliminates funding for the last remaining government advisory body - the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE). The NRTEE provides analysis and advice on how to meet our international commitments to reducing greenhouse gas pollution. Many lakes, rivers and streams that provide habitat to fish will be at greater risk of destruction because of changes to the Fisheries Act contained within the budget implementation bill.

Here are just a couple of the actions we've heard about:

Canada is dismantling the nation's entire ocean contaminants program as part of massive layoffs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says Environmental Health News. 

Among the scientists terminated are ones who have conducted landmark research about global pollutants for decades: Peter Ross, who is among the world's leading experts on marine mammals and contaminants, Gary Stern, a mercury expert whose work focuses on the Arctic, Michel Lebeuf, who studies the highly contaminated St. Lawrence belugas and Michael Ikonomou, who researches flame retardants and other endocrine-disrupting contaminants in salmon and other ocean life.

Many scientists say the purpose of the move by the Canadian government is not just cost-cutting but to eliminate environmental rules and protect the oil and gas industry.

Read an essay from scientist Peter Ross.

Over the last several months, Alberta has killed more than 500 wolves using aerial sharpshooters and poisoned bait to conceal the impact of rapid industrial development on Canada's iconic woodland caribou. It could claim the lives of 6000 wolves over the next five years, reports DeSmog Blog. See their video.

Independent scientists say that declining caribou health stems chiefly from habitat destruction caused by the encroachment of the tar sands and timber industries. 

The Alberta Caribou Committee, tasked with the recovery of the province's dwindling caribou populations, is dominated by timber, oil and gas industry interests. Participating scientists have been silenced - their reports rewritten and their recommendations overlooked.

Summary of dangerous, damaging impacts of Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Bill.

If you are in Canada, you can sign this petition:


Reader Comments (2)

Sierra Club Canada

Date Posted:
06/04/12 07:07 PM

The Black Out Speak Out campaign is a great way to get many organizations and individuals concerns re: bill c38 and its impact on democracy and environmental protection, out to the general public.

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Date Posted:
06/04/12 07:22 PM

It is important for Canadians to Speak out when they have opinions on these issues. Be heard in order to protect democracy and our environmental rights.

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