Sen­a­tors prom­ise in-depth re­view of con­tentious bill

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - Sen­a­tors prom­ise in-depth re­view of con­tentious bill
Sen­a­tors of vary­ing po­lit­i­cal stripes are promis­ing a thor­ough re­view of Bill C-69 as it en­ters com­mit­tee this week, po­ten­tially cre­at­ing space for the Se­nate to amend the Lib­er­als’ con­tentious en­ergy re­forms leg­is­la­tion be­fore sum­mer.The Se­nate Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on En­ergy, the En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources be­gins its study of C-69 on Tues­day.The bill will be among the most closely watched pieces of leg­is­la­tion this Par­lia­men­tary ses­sion, and has al­ready be­come a ral­ly­ing cry in re­source-rich Al­berta and Saskatchewan.In­de­pen­dent Sen. Paula Si­mons, who rep­re­sents Al­berta, said she is “en­thu­si­as­tic about the prospect” of sharp­en­ing the lan­guage un­der Bill C-69.Si­mons, who has met with a num­ber of in­dus­try, en­vi­ron­men­tal and First Na­tions groups in Al­berta ahead of this week’s com­mit­tee meet­ings, said the bill has to ad­e­quately de­scribe and then ad­dress var­i­ous con­flict­ing in­ter­ests and con­cerns.“I think we can do that,” Si­mons said. “I just don’t think this bill, as cur­rently writ­ten, ac­com­plishes what it sets out to do.”The leg­is­la­tion is a sweep­ing over­haul of the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view process for ma­jor en­ergy projects, in­clud­ing any­thing from hy­dro dams to oil pipe­lines.In­dus­try groups say the overly broad lan­guage un­der C-69 opens the door to end­less reg­u­la­tory bur­den and in­vestor un­cer­tainty. Pro-pipe­line pro­test­ers in Al­berta have called on Ot­tawa to “kill the bill.”Con­ser­va­tive sen­a­tors, who tend to op­pose the bill, will need to win sup­port from only a few mem­bers of the In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tors Group in or­der to pro­pose al­ter­ations to the lan­guage of the bill.The 14-per­son en­ergy com­mit­tee is made up of six Con­ser­va­tives and six In­de­pen­dents, with one Liberal and one non-af­fil­i­ated sen­a­tor.Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Michael MacDonald, who is deputy chair of the com­mit­tee, is strongly op­posed to the bill, say­ing he has talked to well-in­formed peo­ple who have “grave con­cerns” about it.He is cau­tiously hope­ful that some In­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors will con­sider over­step­ping Liberal lines to bol­ster the bill.“I think there’s enough open-minded and rea­son­able peo­ple on the com­mit­tee that it will get a good hear­ing,” he said.The Cana­dian En­ergy Pipe­lines As­so­ci­a­tion, among oth­ers, has said the bill pro­vides too much op­por­tu­nity to “stop the clock” on such project re­views.Other con­cerns in­clude a broad­en­ing of the so-called “stand­ing test” for project pro­pos­als, which it fears will open up pub­lic hear­ingsI just don’t think this bill, as cur­rently writ­ten, ac­com­plishes what it sets out to en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­est groups that aim to stall in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments.Some in­dus­try groups also want Ot­tawa to re­tain the Na­tional En­ergy Board, which they ar­gue is fully ca­pa­ble of re­view­ing such projects. Bill C-69 pro­poses to fold the NEB into the Cana­dian En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor, a new fed­eral agency, and shift more pow­ers over to a cen­tral­ized agency un­der the En­vi­ron­ment min­istry.

Paula Si­mons

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