Senate Hearings on Bill C-69

Fraudulent Claims About New
Impact Assessment Legislation

The Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources began its hearings on Bill C-69 on February 5.[1] Bill C-69 is an omnibus bill which will replace the National Energy Board with the Canadian Energy Regulator and establish the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada as the agency to carry out impact assessments on projects such as pipelines, electricity transmission lines, and mines (see here).

The Committee will now go on a nine-city tour, and submit its final report by May 9, after which the bill will go to third reading in the Senate.

The full title of Bill C-69 is An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It establishes the Impact Assessment Agency as the authority responsible for impact assessments. The bill states that its purpose is to "provide for a process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of designated projects with a view to preventing certain adverse effects and fostering sustainability."

The energy oligarchs and monopoly media have painted Bill C-69 as a monstrous attack on the energy industry, even its very death knell. Writing in the Calgary Herald, columnist Licia Corbella stated, "If you think it's hard to get any significant resource project built in Canada now, just wait. Justin Trudeau's federal government has dreamed up a bill so destructive it just might be the bookend to his famous father's disastrous and infamous National Energy Program. Also in the Herald, columnist Don Braid said that the bill is a "grave danger to the Trans Mountain pipeline ... This beast should be ritually slaughtered."

Martha Hall Findlay, President of the Canada West Foundation and a former Liberal Member of Parliament said that if Bill C-69 becomes law, Canada could "Kiss our investment climate goodbye. Investors -- domestic, foreign, current, potential -- their commentary is overwhelming. They say, 'if this passes, we're going elsewhere.'"

The Trudeau government for its part has presented Bill C-69 as a vast improvement over the existing legislation enacted under the Harper government in 2012, when it is actually quite similar. These improvements are said to include a planning process which will take into account and place greater emphasis on the impacts on the rights of the Indigenous peoples in Canada. Second, rules around who can get intervenor status would revert to the pre-2012 arrangements. Harper's 2012 legislation restricted intervenor status to people directly affected by a project (e.g. the pipeline crosses their land). Third, a number of considerations have been added to those which the Impact Assessment Agency must take into account.

It is all a fraud, and neither claim has any foundation in fact. After all the hyperbole, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has now declared that it doesn't want the bill killed after all. Killing the bill would "tear up years of work and not provide any more certainty to the industry," stated Tim McMillan, President of CAPP. Senator Grant Mitchell who sponsored the bill in the Senate said he is open to amendments, as are the prime minister and environment minister, confirming that the fix is in. The energy oligarchs actually don't want to keep the current legislation brought in by the Harper government to meet their demands at that time, but to further degrade the regulatory process. CAPP's "aspirational goals" set out in its Alberta "elections platform" call for total time to get a project approved to be cut by 50 per cent and limits placed on Cabinet authority to "stop the clock" on a project. As well, the cost to industry should be slashed and the already enormous pay-the-rich schemes increased. Concerned citizens, including scientists, should continue to be prevented from having intervenor status at the impact assessment hearings.

The context for all this is the frenzied competition for control of resources and markets and the grandiose plans of the energy oligarchs with oil sands assets to displace their "competitors," particularly in markets on the U.S. Gulf Coast and California. CAPP says six new pipelines are needed in order to more than double oil sands production, replacing Venezuelan oil on the Gulf Coast and imports from the Middle East and elsewhere in California. There is much talk of Asian markets in order to deflect from the reality of increased reliance on exports to the U.S.

It is the well-known road of boom and bust and jobless "recovery." Canada's resources and the work-time of Canadians are used in the violent competition of the international cartels and in service to the U.S. war machine and economy, necessarily leading to destruction and insecurity through war, sanctions, "regime-change" and other means. The social and natural environment, the need to take measures to deal with climate change, and the rights of the Indigenous peoples are all to be sacrificed to enrich the tiny minority. It is a direction opposite to that required to build a self-reliant economy based on meeting the needs of the people with trade for mutual benefit.

The desperation of governments to do the bidding of the energy oligarchs and big banks and the state arrangements which are made to benefit private interests shows the depth of the crisis facing the cartel parties and ruling circles. There it is in plain sight. It is not a pretty sight, but the more the cartel parties and state apparatus are shown to serve the rich and maintain their class privilege, the more the need for renewal of the democracy reveals itself. Who decides has become the crucial question and the challenge facing the working class is to bring forward their own Worker Politicians and a Workers' Opposition in the Parliament.

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 8 - March 9, 2019

Article Link:
Senate Hearings on Bill C-69: Fraudulent Claims About New Impact Assessment Legislation - Peggy Morton


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