Friday, May 4, 2012

Bill C-38 & Enbridge Northern Gateway

It's been a while since I have written, but I have just returned to British Columbia after 7 months of travelling in Latin America, and I feel so inspired and angry about what is happening in Canada these days that I just have to do something....  so blogging it is.... Pine Needle knit is being resurrected.

The day I arrived in Vancouver - surrounded by the sights of tulips, daffodils, birds, raccoons, ocean and mountains, almost weeping for joy at the beauty of British Columbia - was the same day the Harper government of Canada passed their budget bill.... Bill C-38 which actually, is far more than a budget bill... in addition to changes to employment insurance & raising the old age security age from 65 to 67 years old, this so-called "budget bill" includes a complete rewrite - and weakening - of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.   I was jolted therefore by the contrast between the beauty of my homeland and the challenging - and rather frightful - current state of political and economic decisions in Canada.

In addition to these far-sweeping legislative changes, the government has also severly curbed the time for parliamentary debate.  The provisions of Bill C-38 were never debated in Parliament or discussed nationally.

Here is the link to the bill:

Highlights of this bill with respect to the environmental issues include:
-  severely reducing when - and if - a federal environmental review will even happen, the full onus instead being shifted to the provinces.  The situations when there would be federal environmental review are now extremely limited and most responsibilities have been handed over to the provinces instead (despite the wording of the Canadian constitution which places responsibility for & jurisdiction over issues such as fisheries and navigable waters with the federal government);
- if there were a federal environmental assessment, it would be limited to include ONLY environmental effects (narrowly defined) and not socioeconomic, cultural, health, archeological & historical significance and other effects in most instances;
- potentially less protection for fish habitat in the smaller creeks & tributaries;
- broader powers to the National Energy Board to potentially approve projects that could cause destruction to the habitat of endangered species (something that was previously protected under the federal Species at Risk Act) & to be able to override the provisions of the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act.

For more information on these impacts, the websites of West Coast Environmental Law and Green MP Elizabeth May include some really helpful information.

While I was out of the country, the federal Conservative government has come out in support of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, one of the many industrial projects which will be directly impacted by this new (more hands off and as they say "stream-lined") federal approach to environmental reviews.  In fact one of the ministers went as far as to call opponents to the projects "radicals" and "insurgents"

.. so now, as I come back to northern BC, I am happy to stand as a "radical insurgent" with others who care about the future of this most incredible area of the world...

I hope to be able to continue to track some of the current approaches of government, particularly federal and provincial, decisions which could very much impact on our lifestyles and the land and waters of this area.

At the same time, I want to keep track of some of the inspiring & incredible examples we are seeing of the people standing up and saying NO to projects that simply don't make sense to the people who know these lands and waters the most....

because they live here.

Happy to be back & knitting with pine needles.