Canada is on the brink of rushing into law the worst piece of resource legislation this country has seen since the 1980-85 National Energy Program.
Called the Impact Assessment Act, Bill C-69 is an ill-considered bill to radically re-write the rules for reviewing resource projects. It is poorly written, opaque and opens up new and wide avenues for litigation that would tie project approvals up in court forever.
Bill C-69 introduces numerous new factors that must be considered in reviews, many of them entirely subjective and out of a project proponent’s control. It significantly extends the amount of time involved in reviews. It grants federal ministers the unilateral right to deny a project at the 11th hour even if it checks all the boxes for being responsible, environmentally sound and creating jobs for Canadians.
If passed, this bill would cost thousands of good jobs for Canadian families. It will choke off billions of dollars of investment and tax revenue we all rely on to pay for social services such as education and health care.
There is no question we can and should modernize Canada’s approach to reviewing project proposals, and that projects should have to live up to stringent conditions. Bill C-69 is not the answer.
What we must do is step back from the cliff, shelve this legislation and launch a Royal Commission on resource development in Canada. We need to craft a thoughtful, modernized way forward to approving responsible, environmentally sound projects with tough but reasonable requirements.
The government clearly hopes to jam through this bill before June, when everything shuts down ahead of the October federal election. This bill is too big to properly study, debate and amend in a few weeks. There’s just too much at stake. Too many voices need to be heard, too many critical issues examined.
Only a full Royal Commission would allow Canadians from all walks of life, all stakeholders, to be heard, in open meetings, from coast-to-coast-to-coast. None of these people will be present, you can be sure, in the Senate committee hears on Bill C-69 starting Feb. 6.
The last time Canada conducted a resource-related Royal Commission was the 1986 review of the sealing industry. Before that it was the 1968 Donald Commission into the Cape Breton coal industry. Since the 1960s, Royal Commissions have been launched into a broad range of matters of national importance such as the RCMP, electoral reform and party financing, Aboriginal Peoples, the future of health care, the blood system and, most recently, the 2006–2008 Royal Commission into the Air India Flight 182 bombing investigation.
No Royal Commission has taken place since 2008.
There is no more important issue before Canadians today than the healthy and responsible development of our resource sector.
Responsible resource development is Canada’s past and future, central to our continued prosperity and funding for social services, and yet we can’t get good projects over the finish line and are about to make it even harder.
We owe it to ourselves and future generations to take a deep, honest look at this critical issue, get to the bottom of what’s going on, and craft a clear way forward for our nation.
So let’s put the boots to Bill C-69 and start a Royal Commission today.
Rick Peterson is the founder of Suits and Boots, which was launched in April 2018 with the mission of giving Canada’s resource-sector workers a constructive voice in the decisions impacting their lives and livelihoods. The organization has since grown to 3,200 members in more than 300 communities across Canada.