An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

David Anderson  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

October 31st, 2011 / 3:30 p.m.
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Pamela Schwann Executive Director, Saskatchewan Mining Association

Thank you very much, Mr. Benoit.

Merci.

It is a pleasure to be here today to address the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources as you study the question of resource development in Northern Canada.

My name is Pam Schwann. I'm the executive director of the Saskatchewan Mining Association. Joining me today, as already introduced, are Ms. Tammy Van Lambalgen, vice-president of regulatory affairs and corporate counsel for AREVA Resources Canada, and Mr. Gary Merasty, vice-president, corporate social responsibility, Cameco.

The Saskatchewan Mining Association is an industry-funded organization that is considered to be the voice of the mining industry in Saskatchewan. We have more than 40 member companies, including producers of coal, potash, uranium, metallic and industrial minerals, as well as companies carrying out exploration in the province.

The SMA has submitted a brief to Mr. Lauzon, the committee clerk, entitled “Saskatchewan Mining: Global Leaders”, but in the interests of time and your specific interests, after some general remarks the presentation will focus specifically on the mining industry in northern Saskatchewan.

The main points we would like to bring to your attention are these: the Saskatchewan mining industry is a significant Canadian and global mineral producer; Saskatchewan mining companies operate world-class mining facilities; Saskatchewan mining companies are Canadian and global leaders with respect to aboriginal employment and business development opportunities related to their operations; and, an efficient regulatory and strategic policy system will help ensure that Saskatchewan mining operations continue to deliver benefits to Saskatchewan, Canada, and the world.

The Saskatchewan mining industry is a significant global mineral producer. In 2010 we ranked second in Canada in terms of the value of mineral production, with a value of just over $7 billion. We are the world's number one producer of potash, producing about 31% of the global supply, and are the number two producer of uranium. We currently produce about 18% of the global supply, which is down from about 28% of global production in 2005, when we were the world's number one producer of uranium.

Saskatchewan will continue to be one of Canada's leading mineral producers for the years to come. The existing mining operations have announced intentions of more than $43 billion in investment in the next 20 years in their current operations.

I'm going to skip to page 9 of the presentation you have in front of you. There is a mineral resource map of Saskatchewan on it. The remainder of our presentation today will focus on the activity on the northern third of this map. I have a coloured copy that I'm going to put up so that you know what you're looking at.

Predominantly, there's a yellow oval structure on the map showing the area that involves most of our activities, and that's where the uranium production comes from: the Athabasca Basin region of northern Saskatchewan. On pages 11 and 12 of the presentation we talk about uranium production. Mines in Saskatchewan provide 100% of Canadian uranium production. It was valued at just over $1.2 billion in 2010. The mineral production came from three operations: McArthur River, which on the map is shown as number 48, marked by a red dot; Eagle Point; and McClean Lake.

Specifically, the McArthur River mine is the world's highest-grade uranium mine, with average grades of around 20%, compared with a world average that is just under one per cent. It currently provides the majority of Saskatchewan uranium production and itself is responsible for 15% of the world's uranium supply.

There are currently over 25 years of production from existing mines, and there continue to be new discoveries over broad geographic regions of the Athabasca region. On the mineral resource map of Saskatchewan, these include areas such as Cigar Lake, number 45, Shea Creek, on the west side of the Athabasca Basin, number 33, the Millennium deposit, and the Roughrider zone, just to name a few.

Turning to gold production, Saskatchewan currently has two gold producers: long-time producer Claude Resources, whose Seabee mine is nearing the mark of one million ounces of gold production. More recently, in December 2010, we had another mine start-up, which has started producing gold as well.

In terms of exploration, we have healthy mineral exploration expenditures of approximately $270 million forecast for 2011, with $100 million of this targeted for northern Saskatchewan.

While mining and exploration bring benefits in terms of revenues to companies and governments, mining has also been a key driver of economic and social benefits in terms of employment, business development, and school retention.

On page 15 of your presentation, we have some information with respect to northern employment. Mining companies in northern Saskatchewan are leaders in hiring first nations and Métis people at their operations. Cameco is the number one industrial employer of aboriginal people in Canada.

There are over 3,100 mine and long-term contractor employees at the northern Saskatchewan mines, including 660 residents of Saskatchewan's north. In 2010, a payroll of over $90 million was paid to the direct employees, and contractors paid an additional $217 million to their employees; I should say that this is an update from the numbers in the presentation that refer to 2009 information.

Some of the tools that have assisted us in reaching this employment achievement are surface leases and cooperative tools such as the multi-party training plan and northern career quest, an ASEP-funded program. As shown on page 16 of the presentation, northern mining employees make up an increasing proportion of workers in the higher skilled categories, such as supervisory, technical and trades. That is at 39% now, compared to 22% in 1984.

Business development is highlighted on page 17 of the presentation. Northern mining companies have worked closely with northern economic development agencies to incubate successful northern businesses. These successful businesses, such as Kitsaki Development Limited Partnership, which is the economic development arm of the largest band in Saskatchewan--the Lac La Ronge Indian Band--and Athabasca Basin Development Limited Partnership, are now transferring their business skills that were developed in the north into southern mining operations.

Looking specifically at economic benefits derived from northern mines, in 2009 northern mine operations purchased $279 million in goods and services from northern businesses, which is approximately 62% of all goods and services purchased. In 2010, mining companies purchased goods and services worth over $361 million from businesses based in northern Saskatchewan.

I'd like to turn now to some of the key challenges the mining industry faces.

The first one I'd like to speak to is with respect to regulatory effectiveness. As noted by the commissioner for environmental and sustainable development, the federal environmental assessment process suffers from systemic delays and a lack of coordination between federal departments, and focuses on expensive and frustrating processes without being able to demonstrate value to the environment or society.

While Bill C-9 introduced improvements to CEAA to address some of these issues, these amendments did not apply to projects subject to Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission authority; hence, most of the projects in northern Saskatchewan will not see the benefits of these amendments. By comparison, in Australia, the federal and state governments completed a review of BHP's massive copper, gold and uranium Olympic Dam proposal in approximately two years. The significant time difference in reviews places Canadian projects at a competitive disadvantage to uranium projects being developed in other countries.

The mining sector also continues to see increasing regulatory engagement, with Species at Risk and Migratory Birds Convention Acts, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and regulations related to clean air. Also, the lack of integration of the duty to consult policy between federal and provincial agencies on the same project causes capacity issues for both industry and first nations and Métis communities.

The second issue I'd like to briefly speak to is access to highly skilled and highly qualified people. This is a huge challenge for the mining industry going forward due to retirements and also due to expansion. Programs such as the aboriginal skills employment program, ASEP, have been very beneficial in the past, as has the national sector council's Mining Industry Human Resources Council. Both of these programs are being wound down, or funding has been significantly reduced.

Lastly, the inadequate infrastructure in northern regions affects the competitiveness of the mining sector and also affects the abilities of northerners to effectively participate in employment and economic development opportunities related to mining.

Time permitting, I'll go to page 20 in your program, which shows you some examples of how federal regulations and policy have the potential to drastically affect mineral development in northern Saskatchewan. This relates to Environment Canada's proposed recovery strategy for boreal woodland caribou, which is currently up for public review. This strategy would effectively restrict development in the grey areas shown here, and would eliminate development in Saskatchewan in the blue areas shown: over 30 million hectares and essentially all of the Precambrian Shield area of northern Saskatchewan.

We feel that the model Environment Canada has used is based on incomplete and inaccurate science and on faulty assumptions and professional judgment, particularly with respect to the relationship between the availability of caribou habitat, the high incidence of natural fires in northern Saskatchewan, and the very limited proportion of human disturbance. These types of policies really affect the ability of the mineral industry to move forward.

In conclusion, Saskatchewan is a leading global producer of potash and uranium, although we have lost our number one ranking with respect to uranium. Saskatchewan continues to offer excellent resource potential, with world-class deposits. Mining, directly and indirectly, currently employs over 30,000 people and is poised to employ significantly more in the future as the mining industry invests over $42 billion in the next 20 years.

Saskatchewan mining companies are Canadian. They are world leaders in aboriginal employment and business development. However, key regulatory issues impede growth, without demonstrating an environmental benefit.

With that, I'd like to thank the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources for inviting us to make this presentation today. We'd be very pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you.

June 18th, 2008 / 4:15 p.m.
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Acting Director, Panel Secretariat, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Steve Chapman

The amendments put forward under Bill C-9 did not include a specific amendment for greenhouse gas emissions. Notwithstanding that, I can confirm that the review panel that was struck to conduct an environmental assessment of the Kearl oil sands projects did look at the environmental impacts associated with air quality and particular greenhouse gas emissions.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

June 12th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Andy Savoy Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, received royal assent yesterday, June 11, 2003.

Could the Minister of the Environment tell Canadians if the renewed act will provide participants in environmental assessments with a more transparent and predictable process?

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

June 11th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
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The Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

June 11, 2003

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Ian Binnie, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 11th day of June, 2003, at 8:25 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Chapter 9; and Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act,Chapter 10.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2003 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development entitled “Sustainable Development and Environmental Assessment: Beyond Bill C-9”.

It might be worthwhile to note that this report is for Parliamentarians, policy-makers, policy advisers and anyone interested in environmental assessment. Its aim is to give a clear sense of direction for environmental assessment through its recommendations.

The report was made possible by the valuable testimony of witnesses on Bill C-9 before the committee, consultations with knowledgeable people in the field of environmental assessment and, in particular, by Stephen Hazell. The technical and practical experience provided by him and numerous witnesses was considerable and provided the substance of the recommendations contained in this document.

This report is triggered by Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Within the rules of procedure, it was possible to make some 76 amendments to Bill C-9 at the committee stage.

In conclusion, something was needed for the next review of the act scheduled to take place around the year 2010. It is our hope that officials in the Privy Council Office, Environment Canada, the Canadian Environmental Agency and interested parliamentarians will examine this report and its recommendations before drafting the next bill.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2003 / 3:10 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-9.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Roger Gaudet Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today, at this stage in the study of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, known as the CEAA.

Both the House and the committee worked very hard and have shown a great deal of goodwill in order to amend this bill to bring it into line with Quebec's longstanding environmental conditions and claims.

Let us recall the major elements of this bill. First, there are two new objectives: to promote cooperation and coordinated action between federal and provincial governments with respect to environmental assessment processes for projects; and to promote communication and cooperation between responsible authorities and aboriginal peoples with respect to environmental assessment. It would also subject the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, to the process and establish a federal environmental assessment coordinator for projects that involve several federal authorities or provinces. It also authorizes the use, as an assessment criterion, of local knowledge, aboriginal knowledge and traditions. The bill broadens the minister's discretionary power to get involved in projects in Quebec. It extends the participant funding program to comprehensive studies.

Allow me to talk about the issues for the Bloc Quebecois. Bill C-9, as it now stands, is not a bad bill. It is a considerable improvement on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, particularly by extending its application to CIDA and certain crown agencies.

Participant funding and the consultation of aboriginals are other very interesting features of this bill.

However, the problem lies with the very principle of the bill. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act interferes in Quebec's fundamental jurisdictions.

When it was introduced in 1992, the legislation was interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to reintroduce some discretionary leeway in its environmental assessment process.

Clause 22 of the bill clearly broadens the federal government's authority to interfere in one of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. The minister reserves discretionary power for himself by adding:

Where no power, duty or function referred to in section 5 is to be exercised or performed by a federal authority in relation to a project that is to be carried out in a province and the Minister is of the opinion that the project may cause significant adverse environmental effects in another province, the Minister may refer the project to a mediator or a review panel in accordance with section 29 for an assessment of the environmental effects of the project in that other province.

Clause 8 provides for the creation of the position of federal environmental assessment coordinator. This shows clearly that the federal government wants to insinuate itself into Quebec's process. it is because the federal government intends to act in Quebec's area of jurisdiction that it has to create the position of coordinator. If the federal government stuck to its own area of jurisdiction, coordination would not be required.

Initially, some provincial governments, including Quebec and Alberta, were the leaders. They criticized the Canadian legislation and demanded major changes that would have made possible for provincial processes to be used in place of federal assessments, but there were few federal concessions.

The bill appears to introduce discrimination between the promoters of projects associated with federal authorities and those that are not. For example, a partially federal-funded project would be covered by the law, but as soon as the federal level is not involved, another system clicks in.

Let us turn now to Quebec's opposition. In 1992, under Mr. Bourassa's government, the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution denouncing the federal government which was acting unilaterally without taking into account Quebec's representations. The motion read:

That the National Assembly stronly disapproves of the federal government bill, ...an Act to establish a federal environmental assessment process, ...because it is contrary to the higher interest of Quebec, and the National Assembly opposes its passage by the federal Parliament.

Quebec is also against duplication of the process by the federal government. This federal process can take place in addition to the environmental evaluation from the BAPE. It is a waste of resources which could be used more efficiently for environment.

One has to remember this historical event. It is important to remember what our position was at that time, in Quebec, in an effort to understand what we went through with the current legislation, which is now to be amended.

Bill C-78 became Bill C-13, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I have here documents from 1992 where the Government of Quebec was saying, with regard to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and I quote:

There is indeed a risk that the latter will constantly be duplicated, disputed or subordinated to the application of the federal process. Yet, the Quebec procedure has been well established for ten years already; it is well known by the general public and the promoters from Quebec; and it has proven itself.

Let me repeat this quote:

There is indeed a risk that the latter will constantly be duplicated, disputed or subordinated to the application of the federal process. Yet, the Quebec procedure has been well established for ten years already; it is well known by the general public and the promoters from Quebec; and it has proven itself.

The Government of Quebec added that the areas where the federal authority can get involved are somewhat limitless. Therefore, in the view of the Government of Quebec of the time, the scope of this Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was limitless, given all of the provisions the bill contained to force obligatory reviews of projects by the federal authority.

That was our view, in Quebec, of Bill C-13, which became the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which we are amending today. At the time, Quebec was also worried that this environmental assessment process would create duplication. It did say that if Bill C-13 was passed as written—and I want to stress this because it is the basic legislation that we are amending here today—it would mean subjecting to federal assessment many environmental projects with an environmental impact, which have already gone through the environmental assessment and review process in Quebec. This situation would therefore create a serious duplication problem in Quebec.

The scope of our Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement, or BAPE, is expanded to include various issues, and not only specific projects from proponents, something that is not possible in the federal process, which was enacted a few years ago and which we are amending today.

Therefore, the significance of the Quebec process must be recognized. As I said, Quebec did not sign the Accord on Environmental Harmonization because it was afraid at the time that there would be some bills that are not really intended to improve cooperation. As people often say, with an accord or a bill like that, you do not need to be married. Under these circumstances, we do not want to be partners. True partnership involves cooperation.

We do not see how the Government of Quebec could find a way to get application of these elements of the federal environmental assessment process delegated to it, although the process it has had in place in recent years is acknowledged as the most effective in the world. Not only do we say so, others do as well. Why undo what is being done well? If Quebec were not proactive as far as environmental assessment is concerned, I might just about be able to understand the Canadian government's desire to develop a federal process, because of the Quebec government's lack of stringency as far as environmental assessment is concerned. But why do they want to duplicate it when the Quebec process is recognized as working?

This is evidence of an increasingly centralist government in Ottawa, despite its preaching of cooperation and harmonization. People cannot say one thing out of one side of their mouths, and its opposite out of the other. They cannot say that cooperation and collaboration are necessary and then turn up with bills that could not be more centralist.

Political consistency is the one and only thing that will restore public confidence in the political system. Inconsistency and an approach of this type is what leads to Quebeckers and Canadians to lose interest in politics and politicians. To my mind, consistency is vital.

So why not give full rein to a Quebec process that allows a comprehensive study? That is what I cannot understand. Since the Quebec process allows comprehensive study, why, if the federal government wants to achieve good environmental assessment, not let this process be used to its full extent,since it does provide comprehensive study? But no, they want to consolidate a bill.

There is another fundamental problem. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act adopts a process of self-assessment, in that the federal authorities assess their own projects, unlike the situation in Quebec where we have our own Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement to do environmental assessment. Often, under the Canadian legislation, departments do their own assessments.

So they are both judge and defendant. It is as if the oil industry or an industrial developer were told, “You will conduct your own environmental assessment”. What would happen? It would result in biases. What we really need is not a self-assessment process, but a truly independent process as afforded by Quebec's Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement.

We have some serious criticisms of several clauses of Bill C-9. First, clause 22 clearly gives the federal government greater authority to interfere in one of Quebec's jurisdictions. By adding “of the opinion”, the bill gives the minister discretionary power. So, the minister has the discretion to intervene.

Second, in clause 8, the whole part about the federal environmental assessment coordinator clearly shows that the federal government wants to interfere in Quebec's process. The federal government has to create this position because it intends to operate in one of Quebec's jurisdictions. If it stayed in its own jurisdiction, it would not need to do this.

Quebec is not opposed to a federal environmental assessment process, just as it did not oppose the federal species at risk legislation. Why was it not opposed to such legislation? Because, since 1990, Quebec has its own such legislation. It took the federal government 13 years to decide to adopt federal species at risk legislation and, 13 years later, we are being told that the federal legislation might eliminate Quebec's process and legislation.

The process in Quebec is more at arm's length, as compared to that approach. It excludes fewer projects, thus ensuring more comprehensive protection of the environment. It is less complex than the federal process. It is also more uniform, hence more predictable, since it comes under just one entity instead of various federal departments. Finally, it provides clearly set time limits, contrary to the federal process, which never gives any precise time limit.

I am not convinced that our fellow citizens are happy with the federal process, under which only 1% of projects are subject to a comprehensive study. I would be curious to ask the question to Canadians and I would be happy to do a public opinion poll to ask those who used the federal process if they are happy with the fact that only 1% of projects were subject to a comprehensive study, which means that 99% underwent a screening. I would ask them: are you happy with that? Do you believe that the process is transparent? Do you think that the self-assessment philosophy of the federal government is right? I am convinced that the results would be different.

It seems obvious to me that the federal government is trying to force a process on Quebec, which already has an effective process. This is my opinion, but it is also the opinion of others.

I also wish to say that in committee we strived to have the special status given to the Cree people in Quebec and recognized under article 22 of the Baie-James Convention, which provides for a distinct environmental assessment regime and process, recognized under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as it is under the environmental quality legislation in Quebec. This was one of the major demands of the Grand Council of the Crees, namely thate this special status be given and that article 22 of the convention be recognized.

Their proposal on energy sates:

In order to guarantee Quebecers the hydro supply they will need in the near future, we intend to speed up hydro project development by quickly reaching an agreement with federal authorities in order to harmonize, and even delegate to Quebec the environment assessment process.

The Government of Quebec wishes to reduce waiting tperiods, among other things, for hydro projects. Hydro is the main economic generator in Quebec.

The past is an indication of what the future holds in store. Look at what this government has done with the environmental assessment project in the Toulnustouc project on the North Shore. It is important to remember that the interference of the federal government in the hydro-electric generating station on the Toulnustouc River in 2001 caused delays of several months on this key project for the region.

After reviewing the environmental assessment of the project, after public consultations in Baie-Comeau and Betsiamites, after 13 hearings involving some 650 people with 31 briefs having been presented, the BAPE gave the project its approval in June 2001. This hydroelectric power plant was going to generate employment for 800 people per year.

The federal government decided to enforce the federal process, skeptical of the BAPE's environmental assessment under Quebec's system, thereby delaying a sustainable development project for Canada, and also violating the principles of sustainable development.

The environment and society are equally important. I think that the proposal of the current Liberal government, to have environmental reviews delegated to Quebec, is completely warranted.

I find this reassuring and I have the following observation. We have often been blamed here in the House for not understanding anything. The Government of Quebec was often blamed for not understanding the situation and for not wanting to cooperate or harmonize environmental measures, because it was a PQ government, sovereignist and separatist—as the members opposite call us. Now, we can see that there was not just the issue of the fiscal imbalance that the Government of Quebec could not agree on. The current Liberal government in Quebec does not agree on this issue either.

I am truly convinced that when the newly elected government in the National Assembly sees this bill and studies and evaluates these major amendments, it will be consistent with Robert Bourassa's position in 1992 and support the drive to patriate these powers and have one single environmental review process for all projects.

In the end, I am convinced that the new government will remain faithful to Quebec's past demands and to the best interests of Quebec, as all of the governments in Quebec have done for decades.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part today, at third reading stage, in the debate on Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

It might be good to remind the House that Bill C-9 amends the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This basic legislation came into effect in January 1995 and is the process through which the federal government decides whether or not to approve projects that could have an environmental impact. It is important to note that we are therefore talking mainly about the federal government's power in the environmental area.

But we will see that, in this area as in many others, the federal government is unable to curb its insatiable desire for power to its own jurisdictions and this is the main reason the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the bill.

In relation to a physical work, a project corresponds to any proposed construction, operation, modification, decommissioning or abandonment in relation to that physical work. These are all the concepts found in the act in relation to a project. Regulations will clarify the type of projects that are covered or not by an environmental assessment. Paragraph 5 of the basic legislation states that some projects are not subject to an environmental assessment and other exclusions, beside national and other emergencies, restrict the scope of the act. This is the context in which we have to work today.

Exclusions are logical and they are subject to other rules. However, some exclusions are much more ambiguous and cover a number of areas: agriculture, electric and nuclear energy, pipelines, forests, transport, and so on. A good number of these are areas of provincial or shared jurisdiction.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to a comment about this made by the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, the Bloc Quebecois environment critic. He has carefully reviewed this bill as well as other issues related to the environment. The member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, who is a leader when it comes to environmental matters, mentioned that there was a fundamental problem, beyond the issue of jurisdiction, in that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act takes a self-assessment approach: federal authorities are the ones who assess their own projects.

So, while there are sectors that were excluded, as we mentioned earlier, there are also sectors where departments carry out their own assessments of projects they want to promote. Once again, as the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie said, unlike in Quebec, where there is the BAPE, under Canadian legislation, departments are often responsible for conducting their own assessments. This means they are both judge and defendant. It is as though we were telling industrial developers or the oil industry to do their own environmental assessments. What would that lead to? It would lead to biased results. So, what we need is a truly independent process, like that of Quebec's BAPE.

The Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement du Québec has been in existence for several years now. Quebec set up an assessment process that dates back to 1972, when the first environmental assessment legislation was passed in Quebec. Back then, it truly was one of the best pieces of legislation of its type. Of course, environmental issues have evolved over the years, but the fact that the review is there, that this legislation was passed, has allowed for the development of a truly independent environmental assessment process that has, over the long haul, turned out to be a very good decision.

Under the process, there are clear standards by which preliminary studies are carried out on legislation in Quebec. If the environmental impact of a project meets the standards, then a certificate of authorization is issued. This gives developers a very high degree of certainty.

When the BAPE gives its authorization for a project, a certificate is issued, which consists of a guarantee for those involved in the project that, in the end, projects will be accepted, and can be carried out. Therefore, the BAPE assessment catches anything that the standards may have missed. The public is guaranteed access to this type of hearing.

There are other aspects of Bill C-9 that have caught our attention.

One of the features of this act is that only federal authorities are subject to environmental assessment. Whenever such an entity is the promoter of whole projects or parts of projects, it must conduct an environmental assessment. Help for a project may take the form of funding, a loan guarantee, or financial assistance.

However, financial assistance in the form of tax relief is not addressed, and neither are projects carried out outside Canada. In that respect, the organization Development and Peace recommended that Export Development Canada projects be assessed, because we cannot do abroad what we would not dare do at home.

This opens a very important chapter about all that lies ahead in international negotiations, where we have moved from agreements like NAFTA, to liberalize trade, to agreements that include social and environmental provisions. It is important that any legislation we pass now reflects this thrust, so that eventually we may have environmental assessments that allow us to determine the true value of projects.

First, Bill C-9 sets out new objectives: to promote cooperation and coordinated action between federal and provincial governments with respect to environmental assessment processes for projects, to promote communication and cooperation between responsible authorities and aboriginal peoples with respect to environmental assessment.

It creates the position of environmental assessment coordinator. There is the rub. Let us consider paragraph 46(1), which states, “Where no power, duty or function referred to in section 5 is to be exercised or performed by a federal authority in relation to a project that is to be carried out in a province and the minister is of the opinion that the project may cause significant adverse environmental effects in another province, the minister may refer the project to a mediator or a review panel in accordance with section 29 for an assessment of the environmental effects of the project in that other province”.

This is the clause that obliges the Bloc Quebecois to oppose this bill. We cannot be opposed to proper environmental assessments. In this connection, Quebec has proven its desire to pass legislation that is effective and gives satisfactory results. The bill we have before us at the present time, however, allows the federal government to intervene in areas that are not under the general application set out in clause 5 but affect all other matters which, in the judgment of the minister, may be considered pertinent if the act is to be implemented in a province.

Thus there could be a duplicate assessment of a project to be carried out in Quebec, because it would have an environmental impact on Nova Scotia, Ontario or some other province. Certainly, we all agree that a good environmental process is necessary, but sustainable economic development assumes the presence of environmental rules that do not act as hindrances to development but instead make possible projects that fit in with sustainable development. We are entitled to doubt that this federal approach will be a satisfactory one.

To us, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is an encroachment on Quebec's basic areas of jurisdiction. To begin with, right from the time it was introduced, it has been interpreted as a federal attempt to reintroduce discretionary leeway into its environmental assessment process. This is clearly demonstrated by the clause I was just reading.

In clause 8, the creation of a federal environmental assessment coordinator clearly demonstrates the federal desire to meddle in the Quebec process. It wants to created a coordinating position because of its intention to interfere in an area of Quebec jurisdiction. Otherwise it would not need such a position. If it stuck to its own area of jurisdiction, the federal level would not have any need of this position, one which by its very definition assumes the coordination of projects that affect several provinces or which, thanks to clause 22, can intervene in an area of jurisdiction that is already covered by Quebec, that is by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement.

We know that the provincial governments—Quebec and Alberta were the leaders in the environmental area—have spoken out against the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and called for major changes, which would have made it possible for the provincial processes to replace federal assessments.

The federal government rejected those concessions at the time. The bill also appears to introduce discrimination between promoters of social projects and the federal authorities, and other authorities. For example, a project partly financed by the federal government will be subject to the Canadian environmental assessment act. But if the federal government is not involved, a second system comes into play. So there is a double standard. We should have examined this more closely in order to find more acceptable solutions.

In 1992--and this is already 11 years ago--, when Robert Bourassa was Premier of Quebec, the National Assembly unanimously passed a motion condemning the approach tkaen by the federal government, which was acting unilaterally without taking into account Quebec's representations.

This motion read as follows:

That the National Assembly strongly disapproves of the federal government bill, an act to establish a federal environmental assessment process, because it is contrary to the higher interests of Quebec, and that the National Assembly opposes its passage by the federal Parliament.

From the outset, a motion was unanimously passed and approved by this federalist Liberal government in Quebec that said, “The federal government has no business in this.” That is justifiable. It is a position that is shared by all political parties in Quebec.

Quebec wants all projects within its territory, whether the federal government is participating in them or not, to undergo its own environmental assessment process with the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement. The Quebec process allows, in our opinion, more transparency in terms of public participation. We have attended BAPE hearings in the past. The debates are often very heated, but they allow people to express their opinions and their points of view quite clearly. In any case, this tribunal has always had a reputation for doing a good job.

Quebec has an independent assessment process that contrasts with the federal government's philosophy of self-assessment. Under Quebec's system, departments are not asked to assess their own projects. Obviously, this ensures greater transparency. This also means it is not necessary to ensure that the process complies with a sufficiently rational logic.

Quebec's process also excludes fewer projects early on and therefore provides greater protection for the environment. It contains no exclusions or exceptions, as does the federal legislation. It is also less complex than what the federal government is proposing. It is more homogenous and therefore more predictable, since it is comes under one single entity instead of different government departments.

The Quebec process has a clear time frame, unlike the federal government's legislation, which never gives very specific deadlines.

There are, therefore, two different environmental assessment models. In fact, the federal government is very late in addressing this; it is trying to play catch-up. It has developed a particular model which often creates conflicts of interest and which is, ultimately and very surprisingly, based on the Quebec system; it is going to intervene when the Quebec system is already in place. So, this can lead to significant duplication. In that case, it is not necessarily just the environmentalists who will react, but also the project developers. In fact, the latter, in good faith, submit a project for approval, undergo the BAPE assessment process and, suddenly, due to the federal legislation, have to submit their project to a second review. Then they have to see if it is approved or not.

It is important to remember that the purpose of assessing environmental projects is not to block the projects indefinitely, but to ensure that development projects respect the principles of sustainable development, as Quebec has done for many years now.

Of course, Quebec also opposes the duplication of procedures the federal government has introduced. This is a waste of resources that could be used more effectively for the benefit of the environment.

For all these reasons, we felt that it was important to try to get this bill revised and corrected. We are now at the third reading stage and we are trying to have the bill referred once again to the committee or to have the government itself reconsider the bill so that, in its final version, the bill will respect the jurisdiction of provinces, particularly that of Quebec, in environmental matters. Occasionally, the federal government has done so for other projects in order to respect provincial jurisdiction, and it also ensured that what worked in other cases could be incorporated in the legislation, in order to have a better act.

We see nothing of the kind in this bill and this is the why the Bloc Quebecois is opposing it. As we know, we have to find ways to apply the same rationale to development projects and their environmental assessment to have sustainable development.

In that sense, in the case of hydro projects, we can say that the past in an indication of what the future holds in store, as the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie said. He also said:

Look at what this government has done with the environmental assessment process in the Toulnustouc project on the North Shore. It is important to remember that the interference of the federal government in the hydroelectric generating station on the Toulnustouc River in 2001 caused delays of several months on this key project for the region.

Therefore we are not talking about theoretical objections, objections that did not turn out to be well founded. In the case of this bill, we are talking about real situations. It would have been possible to take advanatage of the amendments being made to the act to correct the situation and avoid, in future, this kind of conflict of interest, which has significant economic effects on revenues and also on job creation.

People on the North Shore undoubtedly want the project to go ahead as soon as possible. BAPE hearings were held and, consequently, it did not necessarily seem relevant to add a second environmental study.

The hon. member said later:

After reviewing the environmental assessment of the project, after public consultations in Baie-Comeau and Betsiamites, after 13 hearings involving some 650 people with 31 briefs having been presented, the BAPE gave the project its approval in June 2001. This hydroelectric power plant was going to generate employment for 800 people per year.

The federal government decided to enforce the federal process, skeptical of the BAPE's environmental assessment under Quebec's system, thereby delaying a sustainable development project for Canada, and also violating the principles of sustainable development, under which the economy, the environment and society are equally important. I think that the proposal of the current Liberal government, to have environmental reviews delegated to Quebec, is completely warranted.

Why not, instead, have legislation that would provide that, if a province had an adequate mechanism, that is what would apply, but duplication would be avoided at all costs?

The hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie concluded by saying that he was:

—convinced that when the newly elected government in the National Assembly sees this bill and when it studies and evaluates these major amendments, it will be consistent with Robert Bourassa's position in 1992 and support the drive to patriate and have one single environmental review process for all projects. In the end, I am convinced that the new government will remain faithful to Quebec's past claims and to the best interests of Quebec, as all of the Governments of Quebec have done for decades.

In conclusion, I think the best lesson to be drawn from today's debate is that, as the member from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve said this morning, the environment is not just about theoretical issues. It has an impact on people's daily lives and that should be one measure of whether projects are compatible with sustainable development. But we must never use environmental legislation to obstruct development projects; all voices must be heard.

At present, the federal government, by allowing us to vote on Bill C-9, is not working for the cause of the environment. Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against the bill.

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May 5th, 2003 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. As I indicated, if there were a project that was initiated from CP or any of the other rail entities, that project would be dealt with within the confines of the Canada Transportation Act.

It would seem to me that the spirit of Bill C-9 with respect to the information that would be provided to those who are within the immediate right of way, those who are implicated directly or indirectly, whether it be through noise or with respect to an unseemly interruption of what could be characterized as reasonable life and lifestyle, is that they would have all the information available to them. I do not know whether the Canada Transportation Act provides for that but it would seem to me the same spirit with respect to public information and access should be provided.

I would like to point out that it is the application though, through the Canadian Transportation Agency, that would trigger the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the same provisions would provide with respect to the public's right to have input. The ultimate decision would be made through the Canada Transportation Act and agency.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
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York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently as various members raised the implications of Bill C-9. I particularly want to thank the member for Davenport for his wise adjudication of the whole process of Bill C-9. In addition to the points that were made last week, there are some points that I am pleased to address.

Those points primarily fall into three categories: the bill as it relates to crown corporations; the bill as it relates to the immensely implicating concerns with respect to nuclear storage, and the Bruce nuclear dry storage issue was mentioned; and the issues with respect to federal-provincial harmonization. I would like to address those three issues this morning as well as additional points that have been made during the course of debate.

With respect to crown corporations, the bill provides that after three years crown corporations would come under the provisions of Bill C-9, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Some members have asked why.

There are crown corporations that have and immense impact on particular parts of our constituencies. For example, the Farm Credit Corporation receives literally thousands of applications for farm credit. If the strictest letter of Bill C-9 were addressed to the Farm Credit Corporation, it would result in the applications for credit being held back. All members would agree that is not the intent of Bill C-9. The Farm Credit Corporation addresses Bill C-9 in a special way in its intent, but in a very different way in terms of implementation.

It is important to look at different corporations such as the Export Development Corporation, which is exempt from the requirements, because it has a separate process for environmental review of projects that it funds. Those processes have been separately established through the Export Development Act. To bring congruency to that act, which is not companion legislation at all because it is its own separate legislation, would require some time.

Another example of that is the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board which is also exempt because it is not a federal authority as it has a unique federal-provincial nature.

My colleague from Davenport raised the matter of CP Rail. I have been able to extract the information with respect to those points. CP Rail is not a crown corporation, but any permit or licence that it needs to construct a project would trigger the act through the Canadian Transportation Agency. This is another conduit for that particular crown corporations to work through. It will take a little time to bring these two different jurisdictions into congruency. For those who are interested in the rail sector, VIA Rail is a crown corporation and the new provisions of Bill C-9 would also apply to it.

With respect to the Bruce used fuel dry storage facility, I would not want it to be perceived as being simply a quick and dirty, and nasty process in regard to the dismissal of the concerns that were raised with respect to nuclear storage because that was not the case. The matter that was being adjudicated upon was for the onsite storage of existing nuclear fuel. It was not to bring in nuclear fuel from other operations.

In addition, the project was required to continue its operations. That was something that had to be considered at the time. The project underwent a thorough review as a comprehensive study from 1997 to 1999 and the comprehensive study included a 60 day public comment period. It was concluded that the project would not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects. This conclusion, as has been pointed out, was upheld by both the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, which concluded also that the federal authority could not delegate away its responsibility and accountability with respect to that issue.

I would suggest that the cycle has come full circle in that Bill C-9 closes the accountability gap, if it ever existed in the first place. We also know that there has been separate legislation under the Nuclear Safety Act which, at this particular time through the Nuclear Safety Commission, is engaged in looking at this whole question of onsite nuclear storage.

There has been considerable concern and interest raised with respect to federal-provincial relations. As I have indicated before, when I was speaking on this issue, the matter of jurisdictional cooperation is dealt with up front with respect to Bill C-9 because it is absolutely clear that there must be a high level of provincial-federal cooperation in order to address and get around the kind of duplication and obfuscation that occurs when we have two important desires which should come together, and that is to protect the environment in a sustainable manner.

In 1998, all provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec, signed the Canada-wide accord on environmental harmonization. It is hoped that the kinds of issue that have been addressed within the context and spirit of that particular companion document will find us perhaps discovering a new day in provincial-federal relations where the nature of duplication and conflict can be resolved. I would beg that the new government in the province of Quebec would review Bill C-9 against the opportunity to develop new mechanisms so that it too would sign the harmonization accord.

The legislation mentions the creation of a new position: federal-environment assessment coordinator. The coordinator would have powers to set timelines and would be accountable for ensuring that federal authorities fulfill their obligations under the act in a timely manner, since justice delayed is justice denied in terms of holding back unnecessarily the information that is provided through the public registry, and the scoping and recommendations that are entrenched in Bill C-9.

Aboriginal peoples have a unique role to play in environmental assessments and Bill C-9 would ensure that special provisions would apply with respect to the value and use of traditional knowledge that is very much part of aboriginal background. The legislation would enable band councils to undertake assessments on reserve lands.

Martha Kostuch, from The Friends of the Oldman River, appeared before the standing committee and welcomed new requirements that established an Internet based registry of project information. However, she cautioned that electronic information alone is not sufficient because there are still people who require paper information. Those provisions have been included. Under circumstances that are specific to a proponent's application for environment assessment, all information will be provided in a manner that is best utilized by the public.

There are other positive changes. As hon. members know, the environment is a dynamic area of public policy. In terms of its dynamics it is extremely sensitive to advances in science and technology. It is in that manner of update of information, in particular as it is available to special interest groups which have a huge opportunity and a wisdom and an information base to be part of the environmental process, that they will have even additional opportunities to do so.

As members of Parliament we must be certain that the positive evolution of environmental assessment set in motion by the minister's review of the Act and Parliament's consideration of Bill C-9 will continue. The answer to the question of whether the act will fulfil its obligations probably lies in the fact that not only is there a companion piece with respect to beyond Bill C-9 but that the quality assurance program requires that there is an ongoing response and monitoring under the quality assurance program that will keep the agency vigilant. It will make recommendations as policy issues arise that require change. It is not just at the end of the seven years that the review will to take place, it will be an ongoing review.

New requirements that make follow-up programs mandatory for larger and more complex projects are a second way that Bill C-9 will promote continuous improvement. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act follow-up programs examine whether the predictions made by an environmental assessment are accurate and whether the mitigation measures intended to prevent environmental harm are actually working. By making these programs mandatory for projects assessed by a comprehensive study, mediation or a review panel, we are guaranteed a constant flow of follow-up information.

In support of these legislative changes the minister has committed the agency to act as a central electronic repository of follow-up information allowing others to use the results of past assessments to improve their ability to predict effects and design mitigation measures.

I am confident that Bill C-9 will significantly strengthen the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I am also certain that the positive momentum created by the bill will continue. As as a matter of fact, the provisions beyond Bill C-9 start to relate environmental assessment to sustainable development in order that the process facilitates a meaningful change, not only in attitudes toward sustainable development and the stewardship of our environment but invite new positive ways that it can be done as well.

We look forward to a continuation of that spirit as we gain experience from Bill C-9. In this way we will have an environmental assessment process that retains the confidence of Canadians, a process that supports on a project by project basis our environmental priorities, including action on climate, endangered species, clean water and clean air. In other words, we will take those steps that will provide for a legacy for future generations that is in keeping with the sense of responsibility that we feel at this present time.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. I will not speak immediately on the social union, but I recognize its relevance. I have some ideas along those lines, but it she will permit, I will not talk about that right away.

When I was talking about an ombudsman, I was referring to Bill C-26, with which the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is very familiar. He did me the honour of coming to Hochelaga—Maisonneuve during the Easter break to meet the people who live on Moreau, Préfontaine and Wurtele streets. Part of that neighbourhood is in the riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie, as well.

Bill C-26 will make it possible for the Canadian Transportation Agency to accept complaints from citizens who live in extremely worrisome situations with respect to noise that interferes with their quality of life.

The Canadian Transportation Agency will create a mediation process. This may not be enough. We would have liked to see something stronger, something more coercive. But since there was nothing before, I do not need to tell the House that the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and myself, along with our constituents, were pleased to get this news, although that will not prevent us from suggesting amendments to Bill C-26, in order to go farther.

The member for Terrebonne—Blainville is correct in reminding us that Bill C-9 would create the position of Federal Environmental Assessment Coordinator. This worries us, just as the amendment in clause 22 worries us, because it would give somewhat discretionary power to the Minister of the Environment.

I would like to read clause 22 of the bill to you, so there is no misunderstanding. No one will be able to accuse me of not quoting my sources properly.

Where no power, duty or function referred to in section 5 is to be exercised or performed by a federal authority in relation to a project that is to be carried out in a province... the Minister may refer the project to a mediator or a review panel in accordance with section 29—

—which will become section 46—

—for an assessment of the environmental effects of the project—

Therefore, in this clause, the federal government says that even in a province such as Quebec, for example, where there has been environmental assessment legislation for years, it could—exercising its own discretion—choose to duplicate that which already exists. That is the reason successive governments in the National Assembly—I mentioned Robert Bourassa's government earlier—have been opposed to this legislation.

As to the very sophisticated question of my very dear colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville on the social union, I sensed the influence of the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, who presented a motion on this very subject. Members are aware that the former Quebec premier, Lucien Bouchard, the founding president of our great political party, rejected the social union proposal because it set a very wide framework in which nothing would prevent the federal government from intruding into economic development, relations with natives and, of course, health, and seizing control of all there areas. That is precisely what is going on.

Again, I thank the hon. member for her question. The throne speech, coupled with the social union issue, opens the door to the government federal's poking its nose into just about everything.

I will give just one example, family law. Do members know that my colleague from Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier has to fight tooth and nail in committee because, on the issue of divorce, they want to intrude in family law and gut the jurisdiction of the Quebec courts? I could go on and on giving examples that show that the social union agreement has set all the conditions for the federal government to intefere in all areas of jurisdiction.

In the case of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, where medical procedures happen in private clinics or health institutions, the federal government has found a way to intrude. How? Through the Criminal Code.

Once again, my colleague was quite right to make the link. That is why the social union agreement is totally unacceptable to the Bloc Quebecois. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières will fight to the end, and let me tell you that we will not just roll over.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank that the chair of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. I will have to check on all that. I will certainly be nice to see that Canadian Pacific will have to comply with the provisions of Bill C-26. This bill would give more power to the Transportation Agency to offer a mediation service in the case of complaints from citizens. If, on top of that, Bill C-9 subjects Canadian Pacific to the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and to the related review mechanism, it is excellent news. This, however, does not make the bill any more acceptable.

I thank the office of the Bloc Quebecois House leader for giving me a very good advance notice that I would be speaking to this bill. I would like to remind the House that for Quebec, environmental assessment is a very important matter. Why? It is of course because Quebec adopted its own legislation back in the early 1990s. I will come back to thislater.

It is perfectly legitimate for the Bloc Quebecois and the various successive governments of Quebec to ensure that Bill C-9 and the previous legislation do not tread upon Quebec's jurisdiction, as so often happens with this government, unfortunately.

Canada has had its Environmental Assessment Act since 1995, while Quebec has had one since 1992. Of course, this act stipulates that when various kinds of projects are not covered by an exception, it is possible to carry out studies either screening reports or comprehensive studies regarding the impact of any work and construction, on the environment. That is what an environmental assessment law does.

What was unusual until just recently was that, before the parliamentary committee began examining the bill, the mechanisms for impact, evaluation and analysis under the Canadian Environment Assessment Act only came into play if the federal government itself were involved. Therefore, members can see that there was a problem. It was the federal government that ordered the inquiry and also received the results of the inquiry. Thus, the federal government was both judge and defendant.

If there is one thing we can be proud of as parliamentarians, it is our societies' continuing awareness of environmental assessment. We are not ready to accept development at any price.

Let us take the example of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. As members know, Hochelaga—Maisonneuve is an old working-class neighbourhood, which was first industrialized in the late 19th century, and was known for its labour-intensive industries. That was an era when our fellow citizens wanted to live where they worked. They worked and lived in their neighbourhood. They were not worried by the modern issues of urban planning. Until 20 or 30 years ago, there was mixed use, with heavy industry and residential neighbourhoods together.

Today, of course, that would not be acceptable. No one would want to live next door to a business that employs 300 or 400 people and pollutes heavily.

Then there was this awareness that not only land-use has to be planned carefully, but also that one cannot have economic development regardless of the cost. People want to have guarantees when new businesses are created or old ones expanded. If they are subsidized, and even when they are not, people are not ready to put up with just any kind of behaviour from corporations even if they create jobs.

On the contrary, there is a new environmental awareness that makes it possible to introduce a piece of legislation such as the one before us today.

However, there is a real problem as far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned. We want environmental assessment mechanisms. We believe this is the responsibility of the government. We believe reports must be as binding as possible and that there must be corrective action. We are just as committed to the polluter pay principle as we were a few years back. We know what a vigilant environmental conscience the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie has been for the Bloc Quebecois, and I can tell you that the values he has been promoting are shared broadly by the Bloc Quebecois' members.

As the Bloc Quebecois leader knows, Bill C-9 is aimed at amending section 2 of the Act, and it will allow—at least this is what it sets out to do—better cooperation between the provincial governments and the federal government when an environmental assessment is needed.

As the member for Davenport said, the bill provides—and this is good news—that Crown corporations will be subject to the investigation mechanisms linked to an environmental assessment. Even the Canadian International Development Agency, will be subject to the process.

Where things start to fall apart—and the Bloc Quebecois will show extreme vigilance here—is when the government proposes creating a federal environmental assessment coordinator for projects involving several federal authorities. Where things start to fall apart is when there is increasingly less respect for the demands made by every Quebec government, including the Robert Bourassa government which, if I may say, did not have much backbone or fire. Each Quebec government has demanded that Quebec's environmental assessment legislation be respected.

I am not saying that this legislation does not need to be reviewed and updated. Nonetheless, one of the demands of each successive government in the national assembly has been for Quebec's environmental assessment legislation to be respected.

I would remind the hon. members—and those who are familiar with Quebec know this—that when environmental assessment legislation is mentioned, one thing and one thing alone comes to mind and that is the BAPE. People know the BAPE and they know its strength.

For example, in east Montreal for many years now there has been talk of modernizing Notre-Dame street. I do not know if any hon. members have driven on Notre-Dame. This street is an extremely important thoroughfare for Montreal and all of Quebec, because if it is important to Montreal, it is important elsewhere. One of the factors influencing where businesses and individuals decide to settle, is, of course, traffic flow.

Notre-Dame is the old King's Highway that General de Gaulle took when he came to Montreal. General Charles-Émile de Gaulle, clearly, is a very positive reference in Quebec history. So, Notre-Dame street must be modernized.

It is in our interest to have a fast thoroughfare because people end up sitting in traffic on Notre-Dame. What does it mean when traffic on the major thoroughfares does not flow well? It means that people use smaller neighbourhood streets, such as Saint-Clément, Théodore, William-David and Viau. But people cut through our residential neighbourhoods, rather than taking a direct route from east to west.

Thus, concerning the previous Quebec government—it is too early to express an opinion on the current government's intentions—we knew that it was very important to modernize Notre-Dame Street. Public consultations were held under the auspices of the BAPE. Our fellow citizens expressed their views on the type of projects that they wanted. They were against a highway and in favour of a urban boulevard. They wanted certain parameters to be met to ensure that the residential component of the neighbourhood of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve and, more generally, of the east end of Montreal, would be protected.

All this to say that, in Quebec, the environmental assessment act is working extremely well, that we know it, and that it is the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement that leads consultations.

Let me talk about the major characteristics of the Quebec environmental assessment act. The Bloc Quebecois cannot accept certain things on its territory. I am not talking about the CP, for example. We agree that it is under federal jurisdiction. When a railway runs through several provinces, we are dealing with interprovincial, not intraprovincial, trade. We understand that it is the role of the federal government to proceed with an environmental impact analysis. But on its own territory, domestically, when there are no interprovincinal issues, Robert Bourassa, René Lévesque, Daniel Johnson, Jacques Parizeau, all the premiers, and of course Lucien Bouchard as well as Mr. Landry, said--and I am convinced that this will be the Charest government's position—that all projects on the Quebec government's territory must be subject to one single environmental assessment, that is the one resulting from the act passed by the national assembly a few years ago.

Why is this act better? Why does this act deserve to be more complied with? First, because it is more transparent. From the beginning to the end, it associates the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement with our fellow citizens, who can be heard and who can file submissions. A tabled report is made public. A whole influence process is possible with the BAPE.

Second, it is independent. It is not a matter of self-assessment. The Government of Quebec is not acting as judge and jury. I indicated earlier how surprised I was, a few years ago, when I got interested in this legislation, to see that there is no investigation unless the federal government requests one. The federal government not only commissions the investigation; it also receives the findings. There is no doubt that, in terms of practices and approaches, the process is such that the federal government is both judge and jury.

In Quebec, the legislation passed by the National Assembly is more inclusive. It does not exclude outright and therefore provides more adequate protection, because of its broader scope. This is the most appropriate term to describe it. The federal legislation has a narrower scope, as it applies only to work contracted by the federal government.

The legislation in Quebec is more complex, which makes it more uniform and predictable. This is not insignificant. The problem with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is that there is no single centre of authority. All federal departments are affected. There is no timetable. This means that whenever an investigation is ordered, we cannot tell when it will end; we do not know under whose authority it is conducted; and we do not know who is in charge of conducting it. Under the legislation passed by the National Assembly, all this is much clearer.

As hon. members can see, the legislation in Quebec is better in many regards. Our colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie has put forward an amendment. I will conclude by saying that the Bloc Quebecois will unfortunately have to oppose this bill, because it interferes in an area in which Quebec has already legislated and where its legislation should take precedence.

Understandably, the impact is clearer for Quebec because the law clearly names the authority centres. There is thus a potential for duplication of power that we cannot accept. The bill gives the federal minister discretionary powers. These were not in the old act, but clause 22 of the bill allows the federal government and the Minister of the Environment to amend section 46, thus giving them discretionary powers. This is unacceptable to the Bloc Quebecois which is why we are again going to defend the interests of Quebec and ensure that Quebec retains its full power.

Once again, there is nothing partisan about this. It is hard for us to be partisan. We always try to rise above partisan considerations and focus on higher interests. The government of Robert Bourassa had made representations to the former minister of the environment, so obviously it is not just a sovereignty issue.

Moreover, this leads me to speak to the motion passed by the national assembly. I believe I even have it with me, and I would be remiss if I did not share it with members. Was Robert Bourassa the member for Saint-Laurent at that time?

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, in this brief intervention I will put forward some of the major improvements that were made to Bill C-9 on environmental assessment. I will also outline some of the major shortcomings. If time permits I will make brief comments on interventions made by my colleagues during the debate so far.

The improvements are the following. It would be desirable to bring to the attention of the House that the bill, as amended in committee, would now remove the blanket exemptions for crown corporations. Crown corporations would now have three years within which to develop their own regulations on environmental impact assessment or to come automatically under the act. Considering there are 43 crown corporations, whose projects would, as of now, be subject to environmental assessment, this is a significant step.

The next area is public participation. Here the amendments made by the committee will provide for greater public participation in the environmental assessment process. For example, along with a newly established government wide Internet site of project information, it would include a notice at the start of each assessment, and the committee has ensured the retention of the current system of project files that provide convenient public assess to all documents associated with environmental assessment. The committee also made changes to ensure public consultations with respect to the scope of a project when it is on the comprehensive study list.

Once the bill is proclaimed no action can be taken by a responsible authority until 15 days after the notice of the beginning of an environmental assessment has been posted on the Internet. The decisions on whether to require a follow up program for a proposed project would have to be posted and decisions on the scope of the project would have to be included from now on.

The last area has to do with the seven year review. The committee passed an amendment that would ensure a comprehensive review of the act by a House or Senate committee within seven years of royal assent. A review by the committee should ensure a thorough overhaul of the act and would avoid the narrow scope that was somehow put to the committee under the Bill C-9 review.

The committee has also written a report to be tabled soon which offers recommendations beyond the scope of Bill C-9 for the consideration of those who would carry out the seven year review when the time comes.

I will now say a a few words on Red Hill Creek. The committee has, hopefully, closed a potential loophole created by the federal court decision in the Red Hill Creek expressway case that would have been used in the future by project proponents to avoid the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act.

To most committee members, the Red Hill case demonstrated an area in which the current act has failed. It was important therefore to use the Red Hill Creek example to make changes to Bill C-9 so as to avoid similar occurrences in future.

By way of background, Environment Canada determined that the construction of the Red Hill Creek expressway would result in the loss of migratory bird habitat through the removal of some 40,000 trees and that the significance of the impact of this loss of migratory birds was unknown.

In addition, the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans and the Environment have received many letters expressing concern about the expressway project.

Based on the potential for significant adverse environmental effects and public concerns, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in accordance with section 25 of the act, asked the Minister of the Environment in May 1999 to refer the project to a review panel immediately.

However, without awaiting the outcome of the screening, the Minister of the Environment agreed. Shortly thereafter the original municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth applied to the federal court for a judicial review of a number of issues, most important, the federal government decision that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as well as the Fisheries Act, applied to the project.

The federal court decided that the act did not apply to that project because the project was “grandfathered under section 74 of the act”, and second, because it would be a retroactive application of the act to a project in respect of which “irrevocable decisions” were made by the City of Hamilton prior to the enactment of the act.

One might ask how a major project involving the removal of 40,000 trees and causing the destruction of migratory bird habitat could not be subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Instead of appealing the federal court's decision to the Supreme Court, the federal government decided to make amendments to Bill C-9 so that a situation like Red Hill Creek could never happen again. It is the sincere hope of our committee that the amendment to section 2 of the act would have that effect.

Briefly I will say a few words about the major shortcomings of Bill C-9 for future reference of course. There is the issue of panel review which is often considered the core strength of the act, yet, out of 30,000 screenings, only one has been referred to a panel on the basis that significant adverse environmental effects were identified.

The testimony of Mr. Normand de la Chevrotière highlighting the problems at the Bruce nuclear facility still rings in my ears, namely that the world's largest nuclear waste storage facility was approved without a panel review. That was a very stunning statement which really surprised us. Because it was outside of the scope of the bill, the committee was unable, through amendments, to address the lack of panel reviews which the minister has referred to as the core strength of the act and quite rightly so.

The other shortcoming has to do with self-assessment. Because of the narrow scope of the bill, the committee was unable to address the issue of self-assessment by the federal government of its own project. Of the 5,500 or more federal environmental assessments per year, the vast majority are being done by departments responsible for the project and not by the agency responsible for the act.

Witnesses told us that an effective regime could not exist where federal departments conducted assessments of their own projects. We tended to agree with them. Because of the narrow scope of Bill C-9, the committee was unable to deal with the issue.

The third shortcoming is the enforcement. There is no provision in the legislation requiring either enforcement or compliance. Even though there were a number of proposed amendments to the issue, the motions introduced at report stage would remove any power to the agency to make enforceable decisions and impose penalties for non-compliance with the act.

The fact that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development criticized federal departments for failing to implement the environmental assessment of policies and programs, as required by a 1990 and a follow-up in 1999 cabinet directive, highlights the necessity of introducing a compliance mechanism into the act.

The next issue has to do with national parks. The member for Fundy—Royal proposed, through an amendment in committee, that if there were a possibility a project might cause a significant adverse environmental effect on a park, a park reserve or on wildlife that frequent such areas, it should be reviewed by a panel review. The amendment was not carried.

The final issue is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans trigger, as it is referred to. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not trigger an environmental assessment of a project until after it has: first, received complete information on possible measures to prevent or mitigate the effects on fish habitat; and second, it has concluded that prevention and mitigation will not work.

The witnesses before the committee pointed out that the departmental practice has been inefficient, as it makes no sense to assess mitigation options internally in order to determine that mitigation will not work, and then undertake an environmental assessment process to review and study those same mitigation options. The bill does not address this triggering program under the Fisheries Act.

In connection with the debate so far, I read with keen interest the intervention made by my colleague, the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, in which he expounded the view that Quebec wanted all projects in its territory to be subjected to its own environmental assessment process. This statement and this kind of policy as proposed flies in the face of our Constitution.

The Constitution sets out very clearly that there is federal jurisdiction across the country in every province when it comes to matters that impinge upon water particularly, namely the Fisheries Act, the Navigation Act and other acts, and therefore Quebec cannot be exempt from the application of federal laws under the Constitution of Canada as if it were an island by itself.

Therefore the argument put forward by the member claiming an exclusive provincial jurisdiction does not hold water.

I also found it quite intriguing to hear the intervention by my distinguished colleague from Windsor—St. Clair. I read his remarks very carefully. I agree with many of his points, particularly with regard to the three criteria that the NDP has applied to test the legislation. They are printed in Hansard on page 5655.

While one has to agree with the second criteria to some extent, I would argue to the contrary, namely that these amendments have not weakened but have strengthened the legislation for the reasons I just gave a few moments ago: by introducing the element of the seven year review and by bringing the crown corporation under the act and so forth.

It seems to me that if I were to apply the three criteria, I would say that two out of three would be positive. I am referring now to the third criterion which refers to the necessity of strengthening the ability for people, community members, NGOs and sectoral interests to deal with the process, namely the general concept of transparency.

I would say that the amendments related to the registry and the time limitations given, that actually the act has been strengthened and has been given transparency.

We must keep in mind that in committee it was possible, by way of very close cooperation, to make some 70 more amendments.

Moving on to the member for Fundy—Royal's intervention, he makes a very important point about the necessity for a panel review of projects of a certain magnitude. He also refers to the testimony given by Monsieur de la Chevrotière in connection with the Bruce Peninsula nuclear waste products issue. I agree with the member for Fundy—Royal that this kind of review should have taken place and that the act therefore requires an amendment to permit such a review to be carried out in future. It would improve the accountability of the government and it would improve the confidence on the part of the public in the environmental impact assessment, and it would be desirable for those reasons alone.

The question that the member for Fundy—Royal raised at the end of his intervention is also quite important because he asks whether the federal environmental assessment is making a significant contribution to sustainable development and a healthy environment. I suppose that is the key question that we need to address. The bill is a measure of limited scope and impact, as indicated earlier. Definitely what is needed here is to have a piece of legislation that will improve and strengthen the sustainable development goals of the Government of Canada, because it is through the properly conducted, efficient, open and successful environmental impact assessment process that we can reinforce the implementation of sustainable development in this country.

Of course the case that comes to mind again is the construction of that expressway in Hamilton, which was approved because of a loophole in the act. Thank God that has been closed. In the meantime, though, 40,000 trees have been cut and considerable damage has been done to the survival of migratory birds.

In conclusion, might I say that it was for all of us a very worthwhile experience to have this bill sent to committee. We have done as much as could be done, politically speaking, to improve it.

May I take this opportunity to recognize the fine work that was carried out as vice-chair of the committee by the member for York North, whose dedication and commitment made it possible to give the bill a considerable boost. She is no longer the vice-chair of our committee and we regret it very much. Had it not been for her work, we would not be able today to list the positive features of this bill and I am glad to do that in recognition of a colleague who has done so well in the promotion of sustainable development.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 1st, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to note the lobby just put before us by the hon. member for Bill C-10A to be debated next week.

This afternoon, we will continue the debate on the opposition motion. Tomorrow, we will commence with Bill C-34, the long-awaited bill to amend the Parliament of Canada Act.

I have informed the House leaders of the other parties of my intention to propose, pursuant to Standing Order 73(1), that this bill be referred to committee before second reading. If this debate is completed by the end of the day, we will return to third reading of Bill C-9, which deals with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; then we will go to Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill, but I would be surprised if we got that far tomorrow.

On Monday and Wednesday, we will return to the two bills that I just mentioned and we will add to that Bill C-35, regarding military judges, which I think was introduced this morning. Then we will complete, I hope, Bill C-33, dealing with the transfer of offenders.

On Tuesday, and again I am responding to the request made by my colleagues opposite, we will continue consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-10, respecting the Criminal Code.

Next Thursday will be an allotted day.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernments Orders

April 30th, 2003 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today regarding Bill C-9, which seeks to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I spoke previously on this bill, at second reading a few days ago, and I said then that with this bill, the federal government was duplicating what we had already done very well, what we had created in Quebec. In addition to having our own environmental assessment act, we wanted to confirm everything and reassure the public by creating the BAPE, the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement, which makes it possible to assess large projects at another stage.

Before I give my opinion, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie. Just now, in his 40-minute speech, he gave us an excellent picture of what is happening with this legislation. He explained why we in the Bloc Quebecois are opposed to it, and why both the Government of Quebec at the time—the Parti Quebecois—and the newly elected government—the Liberal Party of Quebec—have opposed it.

A unanimous resolution by the National Assembly made it clear to Ottawa that the Government of Quebec was in total disagreement with the creation of such a law. Thus, I congratulate my hon. friend and I say it could not have been expressed more clearly.

Nevertheless, I can see that the Liberal members and those from other parties may not understand Quebec's environmental procedures. At present, we are going through the environmental assessment process in my region.

After the extraordinary flooding in 1996 in the Saguenay, which has cost over a billion dollars, the Parti Quebecois government of the day set up the Nicolet Commission. This commission examined everything that happened in relation to the flood and in its recommendations said that the Lac Kénogami basin had to be consolidated. Then, the government acted.

It began putting infrastructure in place, but then went even farther. After the initial steps toward correcting the problems that identified, we are now in the second phase which is the project to regularize the water levels in the Lac Kénogami watershed, and this is being done within the BAPE.

This commission is headed by a chair and members who travel to the region concerned and hold hearings. So, this commission has a maximum time period in which to consult the public and table its recommendations.

In the Saguenay, the BAPE process will last four months. There are two stages. The purpose of the first stage of the public hearing is to allow the public and the commission to ask questions about every aspect of the project.

The second stage of the public hearings, which will follow, ensures that the commission hears the public's opinion and suggestions. Any individual, group or municipality who so wishes may express a view on the project, whether in the form of a brief or oral presentation. I will give members a general overview of the project.

I hope that what happened to us will never happen again anywhere. What happened in the Saguenay during the 1996 flood was horrendous.

This project is to build infrastructures for regulating water levels in the Lake Kénogami drainage basin, in Ville de Saguenay. This is where the whole thing started, and we all know what happened.

The project has five parts: modernization of the spillways, work above Lake Kénogami, construction of the Rivière-des-Sables sill, and consolidation and forward management.

The first phase of the project, now underway, aims to improve existing spillways and deploy additional measuring instruments in the drainage basin. The second phase, addressed by the current environmental impact study, would include the work at the Péribonka reservoir, Lake Kénogami and Rivière-des-Sables, as well as provide for the implementation of a forward management system.

This process and Quebec's legislation show just how hard Quebec has worked. People always say that Quebec is so picky about environmental issues that it created another process to allow for public participation.

I have attended many of the hearings, and I am even going to present a brief of my views because this is in my riding. Even though this is the Quebec government, I will be presenting a brief.

This is a transparent process. It is why the statistics the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie was reading a while ago on public satisfaction with the environmental assessment process and the Bureau d'audiences publiques du Québec show how satisfied and reassured the public is when this whole process is followed.

Why would this government come along and duplicate what we are doing and doing well ourselves? Why spend millions of dollars to duplicate efforts in an area that is not even under their jurisdiction? There may be somewhat of a shared jurisdiction, but we do our utmost for environmental protection. What the federal government is proposing is a waste of time.

It has been months, years maybe, since the last time this was brought up in a bill. With this one, time and energy are being wasted here in Ottawa in order to duplicate what is being done so well in Quebec. I would like to ask this government to withdraw its bill and to exempt Quebec from it, because we do not need it.

Given what is going to be happening with Rivière aux Sables and Lake Kénogami, the people in my region are afraid this government will take advantage of this bill to slow down the democratic process we are engaged in.

We do not need that. We know what has to be done. We have created structures, and it was not even the Parti Quebecois that did so. This dates from the time of the Bourassa government. Oddly enough, the present member for Lac-Saint-Louis was the environment minister at that time. Today, instead of objecting, he is unmoved that this Liberal government is interfering in our areas of jurisdiction—when one is the sponsor of a bill one needs to be behind it at all times. I find that curious.

I think what I have said here and to the other parties of Canada is important, and that is that the process ought to be applied in the same way where they live. What I am saying to the federal government is “Stay where you belong, look after your own areas of jurisdiction and we will keep on doing a good job. It may not be perfect, but we will keep on making improvements”.