Letters to politicians and Responses

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

-Albert Einstein – 

On Monday June 4 2012, the Canada-wide Black Out to Speak campaign generated a lot of media attention.  There were a number of well-known faces, such as David Suzuki, speaking out at public rallies.  Behind the scenes many websites, blogs and Facebook members also had their say.  In addition we were all encouraged to write to our members of Parliament etc. voicing our concerns and opposition to Bill C-38.  I did my part by emailing everyone on my email contact list as well as the leaders of all of the political parties and several MLAs  and ministers involved with environmental sectors of government…50 emails in total.  The emails to family, friends and acquaintances was a basic call to action to write their concerns to the leaders Canada’s political parties.  The following email was the one I sent to said Leaders and the other MLA, and environmentally involved ministers:

Dear Sir/Madame:

The federal budget legislation (Bill C-38) puts our land, water and climate at risk by making enormous changes to Canada’s environmental laws.  It also contains sweeping new powers to limit debate and silence legitimate voices, including those of land owners, First Nations, charities and other Canadians.
 
As a concerned citizen, I care about nature and democracy, which is why I’m writing you, to express my concern about changing Canada’s environmental and charitable laws without sufficient public input and Parliamentary debate.
 
I am exercising my right to freedom of speech as a Canadian citizen to voice my opposition to budget legislation (Bill C-38) that attempts to skirt the proper democratic process and undermine existing environmental laws.
Sincerely, 
Today I received the following responses:

Thank you for contacting me about the recent Conservative budget and its negative impact on our environment and economy.

As your Official Opposition, I want you to know that we are continuing our work in opposing this Trojan horse budget bill. Next week we will introduce amendments to delete many of the provisions contained within C-38. And, as NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen pointed out, each vote on every amendment will be a confidence vote. A process that could take many hours, if not days. Meaning, if the Conservatives do not have enough MPs available for each and every vote, the budget could be defeated.

In addition, you may be interested to know that we have released a report based on the public hearings we held in May on the budget. The report outlines our efforts to both gather feedback and inform Canadians on the seriousness of this Trojan budget bill. You can read the report by visiting: http://www.ndp.ca/press/new-democrats-release-report-on-c-38-public-hearings.

Clearly, we are dealing with a government that only listens to their lobbyist friends. They are transferring costly environmental clean-ups onto our children and grandchildren and financial debt to future generations. Please know that after carefully studying this massive 425-page bill, we can’t support it.

As a former provincial Environment Minister, I have consistently fought to protect the environment. From taking a tough stand on enforcement of environment laws and regulations to promoting sustainable development throughout Quebec. Today, I am proud to lead a party that is fully committed to these same goals. 

A good opposition not only opposes, but proposes. That is why we called for the Trojan horse budget bill to be split into five sections to ensure MPs can give this legislation the scrutiny it so desperately needs, and that Canadians demand. By refusing our reasonable request, the Conservative government has proven to Canadians that they don’t have the confidence to put their own measures under scrutiny.

I know well that governing is about setting the right priorities. The Conservatives are helping their friends in the oil industry by weakening the environmental assessments process. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has already been plagued with cuts and will now be saddled with the obligation to do more complex reviews, faster, and with fewer resources. This plan jeopardizes not only the environment, but also the health and prosperity of Canadians. Read more here: http://www.ndp.ca/press/gutting-environmental-protection-will-have-serious-consequences-leslie.

It is also troubling that these changes will be applied retroactively to the Northern Gateway project. As Northern BC MP Nathan Cullen has pointed out, the voices of thousands of individuals and groups could be silenced.

For our part, we have been consistent in our call for the government to ban oil tanker traffic on the BC coast. Further to our Party’s earlier motion calling on the government to ban oil tanker traffic on the BC coast, Nathan and fellow NDP MP Fin Donnelly have laid out a legislative proposal for a permanent ban on oil supertanker traffic off the north coast of British Columbia.

We have also put forward ideas to protect the environment, such as the Climate Change Accountability Act, a national public transit strategy, and a plan for Canada to become a world leader in renewable energy. Regrettably, these practical proposals have been ignored by the governing Conservatives.

Going forward, we will continue to push policies promoted during the 2011 election to help achieve a cleaner and healthier environment. You can read more about some of our ideas by visiting:http://www.ndp.ca/platform/tackle-climate-change. I also encourage you to visit our new website, http://www.budget2012.ndp.ca, which allows Canadians to submit their comments on the Conservative Trojan Horse bill. So far, the website has received over 4000 submissions from the public. 

Again, thank you for writing. I encourage you to pass on my response to friends and family who also share your desire for a sustainable environment. 

Sincerely, 

Thomas Mulcair, M.P. (Outremont)

Leader of the Official Opposition 

New Democratic Party of Canada


 -------------------------------------------- 

Thank you for voicing your concerns regarding Bill C-38, the omnibus budget implementation bill proposed by the Harper Conservatives. If passed, this Bill will wipe out decades of Canadian environmental law and policy. I share your concerns and am committed to addressing them in the House of Commons. It is an abuse of the democratic process to make sweeping changes in the context of an omnibus budget bill.

 

Close to half of the enormous 425 page Bill C-38 is a direct attack on nature, repealing many Canadian environmental protections. But the Harper Conservatives insist that the Bill is strictly a budget bill. This means that Bill C-38, while undermining the environment, will only be reviewed by the Finance Committee, leaving environmental experts well out of the process.  The Harper Conservatives have further placed time allocation on Bill C-38 to limit debate, so I will likely not be able to speak, and the Bill may be passed by late June. Yet the Bill includes amendments to seventy separate bills, meaning that the opportunity for accountability is being thrown out. The thorough study of each separate amended legislation will be completely foreclosed. 

 

Under Bill C-38, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act is repealed. The National Round Table on Environment and Economy Act (NRTEE) is also repealed, even though this fundamental process promotes decisions through a wide multi-stakeholder consensus. Environment Minister Peter Kent claims that the NRTEE is no longer necessary because we can use the internet as a substitute. It is absurd to suggest the internet replaces the Round Table.

 

The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act under Bill C-38 represent another devastating decision by the Harper Conservatives that will reverse decades of policy and law. Section 35 (habitat protection) of the Fisheries Act was passed by Parliament in 1976 and is the strongest provision in Canadian environmental law. This provision has been critical to protecting our waterways, forests, and other ecosystems crucial to fish habitat for the past 36 years. Yet Bill C-38 will eliminate legislated protection of fish habitat under Section 35, and completely undermine the Act in favour of industrial development. Only habitat for commercial, recreational, or Aboriginal fisheries will be protected, and even then, habitat can be destroyed by permits. This means that industrial development will go unchecked, enabling the expansion of the tar-sands, and undoubtedly resulting in major destruction to fish habitat throughout Canada.

The Bill includes an agreement in which fisheries management could be moved to the province. Again, this allows the federal government to retreat from environmental protection responsibilities.

In terms of substitution, Bill C-38 repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and replaces it with a new Act. While the Conservative Ministers led people to think the repeal of CEAA was to bring in time limits to reviews, in fact, that is the least of the changes. This new Act guts the environmental assessment process itself. It has replaced a clear process with a muddled and confused regime in which environmental assessment will be severely restricted to narrow studies. This new Act limits the “environmental effects” to be studied to only address the impacts on fish, migratory birds, and marine plants. This means that destroying habitat or killing endangered species outright, in the completion of a project, appears to only be an “environmental effect” if the species is a fish, migratory bird, or marine plant.

 

Moreover, Bill C-38 increases ministerial control in environmental assessment even more heavily. This means that the Minister will now be able to stop the review panel at any time, if the Minister believes the panel is taking too long to complete their work. Plus the detailed rights for public participation have been replaced, simply stating that the public must have an opportunity to participate. This will leave room to exclude the public from important process environmental assessment, especially since the Minister will be granted control to decide when panels should even continue.

 

The new CEAA will allow the National Energy Board (NEB) to emerge as an environmental super agency, with full power to approve the construction of pipelines in navigable waters (amending the Navigable Waters Protection Act), jurisdiction over endangered species in the way of pipelines (amending the Species at Risk Act), and ability to destroy habitat of endangered species (Section 111, p. 120; Section 165, p. 181). 

 

I am committed to preserving effective environmental assessment and protection of sensitive habitats and wild salmon in Canada and will fight to propose amendments to Bill C-38 in the House of Commons to maintain environmental accountability in Canada. I encourage you to continue voicing your concerns over Bill C-38 by speaking with your family, friends and neighbours, by writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper, and contacting your Member of Parliament. As well, I invite you to print and sign my petition against Bill C-38 athttp://budgetdevastation.ca. You can also watch my speech on my MP website athttp://elizabethmaymp.ca/parliament/speeches/2012/05/11/jobs-growth-and-long-term-prosperity-act-bill-c-38-20/.

I applaud your interest and concern, and hope you continue to speak out for the issues that matter to you.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

———————————————————–

Dear Sir/Madame:

On behalf of Liberal Leader Bob Rae, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your recent email regarding Bill C-38, Stephen Harper’s 425 page budget omnibus bill.

 

The day after this massive bill was introduced the Liberal Party demanded that the Conservative government separate the sweeping environmental changes found in the Budget Implementation Act, so that they can be properly examined and debated by Parliament.  It is good to see that the NDP has finally agreed and is following our lead.

The reality is that the Finance Committee doesn’t have the necessary expertise when it comes to studying complex environmental regulations. The Conservatives are trying to avoid public scrutiny by cramming major environmental changes into a sweeping kitchen sink budget bill, and circumventing necessary Parliamentary oversight.

The Budget Implementation Act amends more than 70 Acts from a wide range of government portfolios.  In the 425-page document, some 150 pages are dedicated to changes related to the environment, particularly to “streamlining” environmental oversight.  The bill repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, and weakens several environmental laws, including laws protecting species at risk and water.  The bill also gives the federal cabinet the authority to approve new pipeline projects and overrule the National Energy Board.

While the Harper Conservatives ram this omnibus budget bill through the House of Commons with little regard for Members of Parliament, Liberals Senators are poised to be, once again, the last line of defence as they conduct a thorough and necessary review of this massive piece of legislation and its impact on the health and safety of Canadians.

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Yours sincerely,

Colin McKone

Office of the Liberal Leader

--------------------------------------------------

Dear Eldy,

Thank you for contacting me.  I appreciate hearing your perspective on Bill C-38, but I must say up front that I do support this legislation.  I would like to present a few facts to you about this budget bill, particularly in response to the charge that this bill is unprecedented in terms of its size and the amount of scrutiny devoted to it. 

It has been common practice to include various measures in a budget and the subsequent budget implementation bill.  This is nothing groundbreaking, but simply reflects the central and important role of a budget to a government’s agenda.  Looking back at the last few budget implementation bills, the bill for Budget 2009 was 552 pages long, 2010 was 904 pages, and 2011 was 658 pages.  Each of these were substantially longer than the 452 pages of the current Bill C-38 and, moreover, were introduced during a minority Parliament, yet the Opposition at the time did not raise the size of these bills as an issue.

In terms of Parliamentary oversight, I would simply point out that there was seven full days of debate on the bill at Second Reading alone before being referred to Committee.  This is longer than the average time of debate for a budget bill in at least the last 20 years, and longer than any debate of a Liberal budget under their majority governments.  Furthermore, the Finance Committee and sub-committee’s 50+ hours of planned study will be the longest study of a budget implementation bill in 20 years.  As a member of the Finance Committee, I can certainly assure you that due diligence is being done on this legislation to ensure that it achieves its objectives of promoting the Canadian economy while improving environmental protection.

On that note, a truly viable economy must go hand-in-hand with strong environmental protection, which is why Budget 2012 includes the Responsible Resource Development strategy.  This plan will allow Canada to reap the benefits of rising demand for our abundant natural resources, while ensuring resource development is environmentally sustainable.  In fact, a number of the changes proposed under this plan will actually strengthen rather than weaken environmental regulation.  These new measures include:

•             Focusing environmental assessments on major projects that have greater potential for significant adverse environmental effects, which would include participation by public directly affected;

•             Ensuring that smaller, more routine projects will still be subject to federal and provincial laws, standards and permits, where applicable;

•             For the first time, introducing enforceable environmental assessment decision statements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This means proponents of major projects will have to comply with conditions set out in the decision statements or may face tough financial penalties.  The proposed penalties could range from $100,000 to $400,000;

•             Requiring follow-up programs after all environmental assessments to verify the accuracy of predictions regarding potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures are working as intended;

•             For the first time, providing federal inspectors with authority to examine whether or not conditions set out in an environmental assessment decision statement are met;

•             For the first time, authorizing the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, theNuclear Safety and Control Act, and the National Energy Board Act. They will be designed to address small contraventions quickly so that larger issues do not arise in the future.  The proposed penalties could range from $25,000 to a maximum of $100,000 for the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the National Energy Board Act, while the range of penalties under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be established through regulations.

•             As a safeguard, providing the Minister of the Environment authority to order an assessment for any project subject to federal jurisdiction;

•             Consolidating responsibility for environmental assessments with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for most projects, as well as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board for projects within their mandates;

•             Increasing the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency so that it can conduct and complete high quality environmental assessments in a timely and predictable way;

•             Providing $13.5 million over 2 years to improve pipeline safety across Canada by enabling the National Energy Board to increase the number of inspections for oil and gas pipelines by 50 percent, from about 100 to 150 per year and double, from 3 to 6, the number of annual comprehensive audits in order to identify safety issues before they occur;

•             Providing funding of $35.7 million over 2 years to further strengthen Canada’s tanker safety regime, including ensuring appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness and response.

•             In certain confined Canadian waterways, tanker operators must take a marine pilot with local knowledge on board before entering a harbour or busy waterway, and in special circumstances, more stringent measures may be taken. This could, under certain circumstances, include requiring two pilots on board oil tankers, escort tugs, additional training standards, and navigational procedures, restrictions and routing measures;

•             New regulations enhancing the tanker inspection regime by strengthening vessel inspection requirements;

•             A review of handling process for oil products by an independent panel of international tanker safety experts;

•             Improved navigational products, such as updated charts for shipping routes;

•             In cooperation with provincial governments, allowing for greater use of regional environmental assessments to identify and address potential regional and cumulative effects, particularly in areas experiencing large-scale developments;

•             Making the conditions of Fisheries Act permits enforceable.  This means proponents will have to comply with conditions set out in the authorizations or face penalties; and

•             Improving compliance and environmental protection by introducing enforceable conditions for permits under the Species at Risk Act. This means that project proponents may face financial penalties if they fail to comply with those conditions.

As a member of the Finance Committee I recently travelled to Washington, D.C., where my colleagues and I met with U.S. officials to discuss the recent economic situation in the U.S. and overseas.  We came away from these meetings with a strengthened sense that Canada needs a long-term plan to ensure prosperity for our nation in years to come, and that is exactly what we are working to achieve with this legislation.

Thank you once again for contacting me.

Sincerely,

Cathy McLeod, M.P.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo

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It is not difficult to figure out that Cathy McLeod is of the Conservative Party…there is a striking difference to her view of Bill C-38.

The point of all this is that our voices be heard, as we have that right to freedom of speech and that the government in power right now needs to know that many, many Canadians disagree with how things are being done.  Not everyone wants to be involved in politics however everyone should have the opportunity to understand what is going on with their government.

Today’s stone is  Day 158   speak out, dialogue, learn, be heard

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3 thoughts

  1. I’m not a Canadian, but I live in Maine, so most of the rest of my country believes I am Canadian. I am writing specifically to address the ***** inappropriate “monetary penalties.” Any major company, defying environmental law or environmental common sense, will consider the penalties completely irrelevant, and in fact, a joke, at $100,000 to $400,000. Penalties of less than tens of millions of dollars will be completely ineffectual. Given the opportunity to break whatever laws survive the Bill, these corporations need allocate less than one percent of their budgets in anticipation of these penalties.

    Whoo — that came out in one big rush! Good for you for continuing the effort, Eldy.

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