Notley appeared before a Senate committee considering Bill C-69, controversial legislation aimed at revamping Canada’s environmental approval process, but which critics say will deter investment in the oil sector.
Alberta is the country’s main crude-producing province but oil prices plummeted at the end of last year because of congestion in export pipelines that prevented barrels from reaching U.S. markets.
The landlocked province said it urgently needs new pipelines to solve transportation bottlenecks but projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion, which would nearly triple the number of barrels flowing to Canada’s Pacific Coast, have been delayed for years by regulatory hurdles.
“We agree that the process for approving infrastructure projects needs to change,” Notley told the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources. “But we cannot swap one broken system with another broken system.”
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government unveiled the draft of Bill C-69 last year. Supporters say the changes will improve the consultation process with indigenous people, thereby reducing hurdles that have crippled oil pipeline construction in recent years and other major projects.
Critics say it will give too much power to government, allowing ministers to veto projects before a review even begins, and create far more uncertainty for investors.
Notley suggested a number of amendments to the bill, such as excluding inter-provincial pipelines, and providing more clarity on exactly what factors will be considered when assessing a new project.
She also asked for firm time limits for project assessments and for the federal government to consider the socio-economic impacts of a project in its evaluation process.
The bill is currently being considered by the Senate committee, which can offer amendments based on testimony by experts and affected individuals. It still faces a number of additional steps before it becomes law.