On the heels of the federal government’s new principles for environmental assessments, the Conservatives were quick to condemn the changes as obstructive to industry and the economy. This was rather cheeky of them, given that it was their government that rewrote our environmental legislation to include many of the very same principles.
To their credit, the Conservatives did make significant strides in improving and streamlining environmental approval processes. Streamlining did not mean diminishing regulation; quite the opposite. Harmonization with the provincial regulators removed redundant bureaucratic processes.
Previously, developers would need to produce multiple versions of reports that shared the same information but in slightly different formats while meeting slightly different specifications. Harmonization meant both levels of government would agree to use a single format and eliminate duplication. This may seem like a painfully obvious step, but it was only taken in 2012.
The system now runs more smoothly, but nothing was done to address the fundamental flaw: some individuals and groups simply do not trust industry or government to protect the environment properly. The Liberals are seeking to regain that trust by bolstering our environmental protection processes.
In brief, the Liberals have mandated regulatory agencies to be governed by the following principles: no project restarts; base decisions on science and indigenous traditional knowledge; consult the public; consult indigenous communities; and deepen cumulative effects assessments by considering the broader impacts of green house gas (GHG) emissions.
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