Visiting senators, feel our Prairie pain

CALGARY HERALD

Next Tuesday, members of Canada’s Senate will be hearing voices.

Voices of pain from the Prairies.

The Senate’s standing committee on energy, the environment and natural resources will be in Calgary that day to hold hearings on Bill C-69. Suits and Boots has been asked to speak to the committee.

I’ll be there representing the Suits in our group, while honorary chair Brad Schell, a retired oilpatch hauler from High River, will be there on behalf of the Boots on the ground in Canada’s resource sector.

We will bring written testimony from about three dozen Canadians, mainly from the Prairies, who have written us about the pain they feel — caused by the current regulatory dysfunction and virtual shut down of new pipeline construction.

It was our 3,700 members’ grassroots work writing, phoning, and emailing senators that got us where we are, so we thought it appropriate their voices get presented to the Senate this month.  

Their voices will be heard, in both official languages, as these Suits and Boots supporters speak to the human cost of poor policy, how it devastates real families, communities and futures. They will speak to their fear that cost will go even higher, and the pain even deeper, if Bill C-69 passes as drafted.

They won’t go too deeply into policy suggestions but will speak about lost dreams and lost ambitions. The Senate committee will hear about families being torn apart, savings drained by lack of work, towns dissolving under the pressure of lost jobs, about highly trained professionals in the energy sector watching flawed social policy objectives and politics driving decisions rather than science and technical studies. 

Suits and Boots started a campaign to #KillBillC69 last September, shortly after the bill went to the Senate. Reading the bill, it was quickly apparent that rather than resolving issues and delays caused by the current rules for getting good, responsible resource projects approved it makes them worse.

Called the Impact Assessment Act, Bill C-69 introduced numerous new requirements proposed projects would have to meet during their review, many of them unrelated to the project itself, allows a cabinet minister to unilaterally cancel a project for political reasons even after years of expensive and time-consuming review, and opens up broad avenues for delaying lawsuits.

We all agree projects in Canada must live up to rigorous environmental and social standards. However, the process needs to give project proponents the certainty that if they come forward with a good project and consult properly they will have a reasonable opportunity to get on with it. 

Why would a company invest billions of dollars into a project without any certainty it could proceed, when some politician can cancel their project at the 11th hour? They won’t. They’ll take their money somewhere else.

We hope the senators on this committee listen to Canadians’ voices.

The Senate has the power to kill C-69, send it back to the Liberal government for another try. The Senate has used this power to kill or turn back more than 200 bills since Confederation, including bills the House sent to it in the past few decades on major issues like abortion, free trade, GST and greenhouse gas regulation.

We are calling on them to again exercise their power of sober second thought, with the powerful, grassroots perspectives of our members in mind, and their voices in their heads.

We are asking them to hear the pain in the Prairies, and help make sure the hurting stops.

Rick Peterson is founder of Suits and Boots, a registered not-for-profit group of investment industry professionals and resource sectors workers and their families across Canada.

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