Alberta’s energy industry is pleased with the latest changes to a controversial piece of legislation that many initially feared would cripple Canada’s natural resource sector.
On Thursday, the Senate energy committee approved nearly 200 amendments to Bill C-69, which is supposed to improve the way the environmental impacts of major energy and transportation projects are evaluated, making the assessments more stringent so that they are less likely to fail court challenges.
The amendments approved by the Senate’s energy, environment and natural resources committee would reduce cabinet discretion to intervene in the assessment process, make it harder for anyone to initiate court challenges to decisions on projects and change how climate change impacts are considered. Some of the amendments are word-for-word what was proposed by energy lobby groups.
“The package that the Senate has put together, I think, has positioned this bill as good as is possible,” said Tim McMillan, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “They are the best possible structure that this bill could be in at this point.”
On Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has dubbed the bill the “No More Pipelines Act,” pronounced himself pleased with the changes, but he said he wants to see what happens with the final law.
Sen. Doug Black of Alberta says the bill, in its “revamped” form, should satisfy Kenney.
“I believe it’s a package that’s going to work to allow projects to be built in Canada and to ensure that investment comes back to Canada while respecting the environment and our obligations to First Nations people. So we may be on the verge of a win-win here after a very, very long fight,” Black told CBC Calgary News at 6.
But the fight’s not over, added Black.
The Senate as a whole must now decide whether to accept or reject the amendments, which environmentalists say would gut the bill.
Alberta Sen. Paula Simons, who sits on the energy committee, called the amendments an imperfect but pragmatic solution.
“I think we’ve presented amendments that make the bill significantly better, and I think the government has shown a willingness to consider a significant number of those amendments, so fingers crossed.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated the government is open to amending the bill, but he and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna have refused to comment on amendments proposed by senators until the upper house makes a final decision on them.
The Senate energy committee’s amendments will now go before the full Senate, where further amendments may be proposed. If the Senate approves the bill in its revamped form, the legislation will go to the House of Commons for deliberation.
Kenney says he will meet with senators next week in Edmonton for lunch, and has invited Opposition Leader Rachel Notley along with him.
“She is happy to do so. This issue goes beyond partisan politics, and we will work with the Government of Alberta and all stakeholders to see this bill fixed or tossed out,” said NDP spokesperson Matt Dykstra in an emailed statement.
The amendments to C-69 come less than 24 hours after another Senate committee voted to kill the Trudeau government’s proposed ban on oil tankers on the coast of northern British Columbia.
The ban was promised by Trudeau during the 2015 election campaign.
The full Senate must still weigh in on that decision.