The government has begun a review of the processes and methods it uses to decide which natural resource development projects will be approved or rejected.
The ministries that will be part of the review are: Fisheries and Oceans, Environment and Climate Change, Transport, Science and Innovation, Indigenous and Northern Affairs and Natural Resources.
The government is launching the review process to fulfil a campaign promise to “review the regressive changes made by the previous government, and restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards in the Fisheries Act,” said Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
The minister was to a 2012 decision made by the Conservative government to replace the 1882 Navigable Waters Protection Act, that said any water body deep enough to float a canoe was under federal protection with a new law.
As a part of the review process, both the Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act will be reviewed by parliamentary committees in the fall. Those committees will then compile a report and submit it to their ministers in January 2017.
The Liberal government will also strike two expert panels to look into how the National Energy Board approves projects and how the federal environmental assessment process does the same.
“The panel is expected to report back with recommendations by the end of January and the report will be made public,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna.
The government has launched a website to seek input from the public about the terms of reference that should be used to guide the work of each panel. Comments will be accepted at canada.ca/environmentalreviews until July 20.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was critical of the Liberal government’s decision to keep existing laws in place while it undertakes consultations on how the new laws and regulations should work.
“There’s no reason Parliament cannot restore the pre-Harper legislation, and then move to consultation to further improve the process,” May said in a release.
Ed Fast, the Conservative critic on environment and climate change, said the review is a “solution in search of a problem” and that Canada already had “among the strongest regulatory systems in the world.”
“Sadly, the Liberal government’s approach is governing by endless consultations,” Fast said. “You consult, and consult and consult to death but you never actually make the tough decisions that are required to promote the national interest.”