Conservative changes to important environmental laws doesn’t match Canadians wishes
November 9th, 2012 - 8:07pm
If Canadian opinion matched the significant changes to environmental laws and regulations the Conservatives have made, those changes wouldn’t be hidden in massive budgets. Since 2009, they have used budgets to change the Navigable Waters Act, Environmental Impact Assessment regulations, and the Fisheries Act in ways that wouldn’t pass the coffee shop sniff test – not by a long shot. That’s why they hide them in budgets with names that bear no resemblance to the dirty work they do.
It is easier for Conservatives to talk about the so-called ‘low tax budget to create jobs’ than it is to talk about the budget that makes it okay to screw up a salmon river. So it’s clear they do understand that Canadians actually like the environment and would not support what is being done.
I receive a lot of correspondence about real environmental concerns like the historic low water levels in Lake Huron. I have never received a message telling me that protection of fish habitat is stopping someone from creating jobs. It was protecting things like west-coast salmon and steelhead rivers from the significant dangers of proposed oil pipelines. It was forcing energy companies to spend a little more to do things safely. Still, the Conservatives took protection of fish habitat out of the Fisheries Act and claimed it was to create jobs and lowers taxes.
The government is also abandoning the Navigable Waters Act and creating a new piece of legislation that protects only a fraction of our watersheds. They argue it was necessary for the economy, but that sounds a lot like their story on the Fisheries Act.
Traditionally water that can be travelled by canoe – even with portages - is considered navigable. Another tradition is that of legal access to the high water mark on navigable waters. That means you can canoe or fish in that water and the waterway is not private, even if the land bordering it is. By changing the Navigable Waters Act so it only applies to 3 oceans, 62 rivers and 97 lakes (only Huron and Superior in all of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing) that traditional definition is significantly narrowed.
The claim that these changes along with the weakening of Environmental Impact Assessment regulations create jobs ignores the reason we protect our water, fisheries and environment in the first place. Safeguards are not ‘red tape’ unless you plan on trashing the environment along the way. Jobs based on environmental degradation dismiss core Canadian values. These are almost exclusively resource initiatives and we hold more cards than the government admits. They are maximizing corporate profit and tossing the cleanup bill at our children and grandchildren. It is unnecessary and wrong. That is why this is all hidden in budgets that have optimistic names.