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 do.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.
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