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It’s almost Halloween. Time for fatherly object lessons about the unfairness of socialism as candy is confiscated in the name of the ‘Dad Tax’(maybe that only happened in my house) and scary movies. Have you ever yelled out loud at the unhearing characters in those movies who blithely insist on opening every closet door they pass? It is a nugatory thing, but I do it anyway
We should all hope current efforts to likewise get the attention of the federal government on the dangers of Bill C-69, an Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act, are not so futile. Maybe we should do more than hope.
Currently the subject of committee deliberations in the Senate of Canada, the innocuously named C-69 presents a major risk to Canadian industry and prosperity. The clear-minded, hyperbole-avoiding Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) has gone so far as to suggest that owing to C-69: “…It is difficult to imagine that a new major pipeline could be built in Canada.”
Let that sink in.
Why would CEPA say that?
Clearly for the same reason that Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP (the law firm that I now advise) took the unusual step of formally submitting to the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development on the bill. I am proud and grateful Osler made the choice to intervene not on behalf of any specific client, but rather on behalf of the sector as a whole – and dare I say, common sense.
Here’s an excerpt from Osler’s submission to the Standing Committee:
The purpose of environmental assessment is to minimize or avoid adverse environmental effects before they occur and to incorporate environmental factors into decision making. 12 The factors listed in the IAA, however, make the role of an impact assessment more of a policy-setting exercise rather than focusing on the merits of a specific project, which in our view is wholly inappropriate for the assessment of a specific project….Further, such a process would inject a level of uncertainty into project review that would defy certainty of compliance and decision-making. For example, it is unclear what information a project proponent would be required to provide regarding “the intersection of sex and gender with other identify factors”. Compliance would never be certain in such circumstances. Similarly, proponents would have little to no certainty regarding how the decision-maker would rely on that factor to make a decision about the merit
Bill C-69 should have the undivided attention of the energy and natural resource sectors, and frankly, any Canadian concerned about the competitiveness of our economy and its long term prospects of supporting the quality of life we all desire.
This is Canada. We are blessed in biblical portions with natural resources. The sustainable development and shipment of those resources requires regulatory stewardship and environmental protection balanced with clarity and certainty for those who wish to invest, grow and create in our country. While I am aware of efforts from various sectors to make this case to the federal government, there can still be more done to pause, change or perhaps redo C-69.
As someone who used to be on the receiving end of well organized, issue-based advocacy efforts, I would highly encourage the reader to find a way to get involved. The stakes are too important to ignore.
It is very important that industry and its supporters organize and properly resource a multi-platform campaign to ensure that C-69 as it is today never receives Royal Assent. Effective issue-oriented campaigns do work but only with an unequivocal and direct message that is properly resourced and ubiquitous. I offer, respectfully, that the energy sector has too often in the past been unwilling or incapable of mounting such a campaign.
The price differential exacerbated by Canada’s pipeline approval horror stories has our nation’s oil selling for less than half of world prices. The costs to provincial and federal treasuries can be measured in the hundreds of millions that would otherwise be available for health care, and education funding. The cost to our economy, to our nation, is measured in thousands of jobs. The cost is staggering. Incredibly, the federal government is proposing a bill that will make that situation worse.
That should scare us all into action. Some doors are better left closed.
Brad Wall served as the 14th Premier of Saskatchewan from 2007 to 2018 and is currently a special advisor to Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.