The Canadian government announced plans to loosen environmental restrictions once again Thursday, as part of the latest omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45. In it, modifications have been made to previous legislation to allow for development in designated waterways.
The catch? The waterways include all but a specific minority outlined in the literature. While previously the federal government was the one to make the call on alterations to any body of water, regardless of the size, there are only three oceans, 62 rivers and 97 lakes over which the federal government will now preside. For context, Canada has over 30,000 lakes, 561 of which have surface areas of more than 100-square kilometres.
Previously, all bodies of water deep enough to carry a canoe were subject to federal authority. Now, it seems, provinces, territories and municipalities will be the ones responsible to authorize development, a potential conflict of interest not lost on Sierra Club Canada executive director John Bennett.
“You need a government that’s not directly involved to be the one looking over the shoulder,” Bennett told the the Globe and Mail. “It’s sort of a basic rule of fairness that the person who wants to do something isn’t the one who’s deciding whether it’s a good thing to do or not.”
CBC News‘ Margo McDiarmid goes into more depth about what exactly the changes could mean.
“Proposals for big pipelines and interprovincial power line projects will no longer have to prove they won’t damage or destroy navigable waterways [...] These big projects are exempt under the new navigation protection act proposed in the government’s second omnibus budget bill. The new act would replace one of the country’s oldest laws, the Navigable Waters Protection Act. It was established in 1882 and said that no one could block, alter or destroy any water deep enough to float a canoe without federal approval.”
It’s the Conservative government’s second omnibus budget bill, of course, after the notorious Bill C-38 that was released in March with potentially grave environmental consequences of its own.
Expect more Bill C-45 news to follow in the coming days and weeks, but until then, don’t be afraid to read the bill for yourself (PDF).