- - Threats to Environmental Legislation & Policy

Ancient cedar forest, Yellowhead Highway, British Columbia

INTRODUCTION

One of the gravest threats to ecosystems and wildlife in Canada is the gutting of environmental legislation and regulations that has occurred at both the federal and provincial level over recent years. Examples are outlined below.

 

CANADA

The federal government has systematically gutted environmental legislation over the past several years, for example, by means of its omnibus Budget Implementation Bill of 2012. The number of pieces of environmental legislation affected is staggering, and includes:

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (reduced number and scope of environmental assessments)

Fisheries Act (decreased protection of fish habitat)

Navigable Waters Protection Act (removed protection of most of Canada’s navigable waters)

Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, which set targets for reduction of greenhouse gases (repealed)

Canada National Parks Act and related legislation (reduced accountability for management of National Parks)

National Energy Board Act (reduced oversight on pipeline projects and their effect on fish habitat)

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (eliminated)
Legislative changes have been discussed by the Environmental Law Centre of Alberta and West Coast Environmental Law.
 
In addition to these legislative changes, major budget cuts at Environment Canada have left the agency unable to fulfill its role in protecting the environment.

 

BRITISH COLUMBIA
 

In the early 2000’s the British Columbia government greatly weakened much of its environmental legislation in order to reduce regulations on industry. Included in the changes were the Environmental Assessment Act, Forest Act, Forest Land Reserve Act, Forest Practices Code, Mines Act, Mineral Tenure Act, Parks Act, Pesticide Control Act and Waste Management Act.

This process has been renewed in 2014 with the passage of the Park Amendment Act. This legislation permits industrial “research” by logging and pipeline companies in Provincial parks and other protected areas, following which a company can then apply to have the park boundary altered through the Park Boundary Adjustment policy. The legislation was passed without public consultation and has elicited strong condemnation from environmental groups and the general public.

The University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre has made extensive proposals on how to reform BC’s environmental legislation in their recent report on Maintaining Natural BC for Our Children.


ONTARIO

Ontario once had among the strongest environmental legislation in the country. However, following the federal lead, Ontario has systematically gutted its environmental legislation and policies. The Ontario government passed its own omnibus bill in 2012 which included provisions to weaken several pieces of provincial legislation, including the Endangered Species Act, Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act and Public Lands Act. Strong opposition from environmental organizations and the general public, succeeded in having some provisions related to the Endangered Species Act removed from the bill. However, subsequently, the government has accomplished similar ends with respect to the Endangered Species Act through regulatory changes that exempt logging, aggregate quarries, hydroelectric facilities and other forms of development from permit requirements.