KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Some 70 environmentalists from across Nova Scotia rallied at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Halifax while inside senators were conducting hearings on Ottawa’s new Impact Assessment Act, or Bill C-69. Bill C-69 contains legislation that defines how federal environmental assessments are conducted.
Although the Bill is considered an improvement over its predecessor legislation, instituted in the Harper years, environmentalists still consider it too weak.
Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry argues that the proposed changes cut jobs, and just want it to go away. Inside the Senate their argument has been taken up by the Conservatives.
In Nova Scotia environmental organizations like the Ecology Action Centre, the Sierra Club, fishers and others are particularly concerned that the Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and its Newfoundland counterpart will be granted further powers to approve offshore oil and gas exploration.
Environmentalists believe the two Boards are already unduly influenced by industry, and suffer from a double mandate that requires them to regulate the very same industry they are also supposed to promote.
“Through this legislation the Petroleum Boards are getting more authority rather than less, when they haven’t proven that they have earned it, says Mark Butler, policy director at the the Ecology Action Centre.
“The bill is better than the old one, but it is a complicated bill. I re-read the report of the expert panel that the government appointed at the beginning of the process. That panel did a very good job on consultation, but so many of its recommendations were not adopted, including on science, and on indigenous knowledge. I find that a real shame,” says Butler.
Paul Jenkinson, who is with Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, joined the rally because he wants to protect the environmental gains of the new legislation, while pushing for more.
“The Bill that the Senators are discussing strengthens the environmental laws after the Harper regime diminished them. We need to re-establish the environment as a central factor in making economic decisions. It’s not a matter of jobs or the environment, it’s about the environment and new jobs that benefit the environment,” Jenkinson said.
“You can bet industry is here as well,” Jenkinson added. “If it were up to them, they would steam right through the 12-year window on climate breakdown. Their only interest is profit.”
Also at the rally was Thunderbird Swooping Down Woman, one of the three Water Protectors removed from the Alton Gas site along the Shubenacadie River by RCMP earlier this month.
See also: Alton Gas: it ain’t over til it’s over
“I am here today to send the message that we’re not leaving the Alton Gas situation alone. We don’t feel we gave any free prior consent,” she said. “For us it’s a sovereignty issue. Treaty laws supercede Canadian laws.”
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