Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Omnibus Bill Shows Harper's Contempt for Natural Environment

The following letter to the editor was originally submitted to the Sudbury Star on May 8, 2012. At this time, it has not been published in either the print or on-line editions of the paper. As a result, I am now sharing this letter with you directly, through my blogsite (www.sudburysteve.blogspot.com) and through the UR Sudbury website.

Omnibus Bill Shows Harper’s Contempt for the Natural Environment

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is determined to push through the omnibus Bill C-38, with the minimum of input from our elected parliament. By using time allocations to limit debate, the Conservatives once again are showing their contempt for our elected parliament. It’s the same kind of contempt which the Conservatives have repeatedly shown Canadians who are concerned about conserving our natural environment.

Bill C-38 will do a lot more than simply implement the federal budget. It will eviscerate many of Canada’s historic environmental laws, and establish a new regime which promotes unrestrained economic development at the expense of environmental protection. For starters, Bill C-38 will repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, a foundational piece of legislation which for decades has required an assessment of impacts when development is proposed. In place of the Act, the Conservatives are offering new legislation which will severely restrict the required assessment of environmental impacts, and limit opportunities for input from the public and First Nations.

The Fisheries Act will also be gutted by the omnibus bill, as fish habitat protections will be removed. Tom Siddon, the former Tory Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in Brian Mulroney’s government, expressed his outrage over this regressive step to managing the economically important fisheries resource.

The public is starting to realize that the Harper Conservatives really are at war with all Canadians who are interested in seeing our environmental resources protected for the use of future generations. Along with cabinet ministers on-going references to environmentalists as being “radicals” and “extremists”, last week we witnessed Peter Kent, the Minister of Environment, claim that certain environmental groups have been laundering money. When pressed by the media for specifics, Kent refused to identify which groups he believes are engaging in illegal activities, thus leaving his smear to taint all those engaged in promoting conservation efforts.

It’s important that mega-projects are developed right the first time, and that Canadian taxpayers aren’t left holding the bag when expensive remediation is necessary due to environmental oversights pre-development. The Harper Conservatives believe that our environmental regulations are standing in the way of economic growth. That’s nonsense. The real threat to Canada’s economy is the undoing of environmental protections in the name of unrestrained resource exploitation. We and our children will be paying for the contempt shown to the natural environment by the Harper Conservatives long after the current Prime Minister retires.

(opinions expressed are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with those of the Green Party of Canada)

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