By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 0 Comments
On Tuesday, Denis Lebel ventured that all of the provinces had been consulted about C-45′s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and that none of the provinces had any concerns. But it seems the Nova Scotia government, having received a letter from Mr. Lebel three days before the bill was tabled, are still working on their response.
A provincial spokeswoman said the province received a letter from Lebel on Oct. 15, three days before the bill went through first reading in the House of Commons. Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Maurice Smith wrote back to his federal colleague on Nov. 2, saying he would respond to the proposed changes, said spokeswoman Lori Errington. By that point, the bill had passed second reading in the House and was sent to the finance committee for study. The committee passed it with no amendments.
The province still had not responded as of Wednesday, when the House passed the bill for the third and final time. “We’re working on a response from the province, which has taken time because the Act is complex and affects four departments. We’re expecting to send it soon,” Errington said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the New Democrats quibble with Mr. Lebel’s explanation of what constitutes a navigable waterway.
This follows the government side’s attempt to explain where changes to the act were referenced in the spring budget and the disappearing FAQ. The Conservative argument that the act has nothing to do with the environment is also problematic.
Update 4:37pm. In a statement, Mr. Lebel dismisses the suggestion that the government of Nova Scotia was not informed until October 15.
The Harper Government continues to deliver on our budget commitment to reduce red tape and create jobs. The streamlined Navigation Protection Act will cut red tape that has held up provincial and municipal infrastructure projects like bridge construction and repairs.
The claim that Nova Scotia was not consulted well in advance is completely false. Throughout the summer, all provinces and territories were consulted. On July 5 Transport Canada met with 10 senior officials from Nova Scotia’s departments of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Natural Resources and there was more follow-up on August 29 and September 13. The Minister’s office was engaged on July 10 and contacted again on September 11. Officials did not express objections or propose any additions to the list of waterways.
My October 15 letter to the Minister Smith referenced these consultations. As well, I discussed the principles for reforming the Act with my colleagues at a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Council of Ministers, shortly before the bill was introduced. The new approach to navigation law will reduce the backlog of applications and ensure that provincial and municipal infrastructure projects can proceed more quickly.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
With the House due to spend something like eight hours Tuesday night voting on the second budget implementation bill, a rough guide to how we arrived at this point (again).
I have this odd feeling of deja vu.
Yeah, me too.
So what’s the deal?
As has been their habit since forming government, the Conservatives tabled a second budget implementation act this fall. C-45 measures 457 pages. That’s actually five pages longer than the relatively infamous C-38. At a combined weight of more than 900 pages, this year’s budget bills are only outweighed by 2010′s tandem, which measured 1,056 pages. In all, C-45 amends all of these different pieces of legislation and creates an entirely new act to deal with the bridge from Windsor to Detroit.
Could you please neatly summarize the issues and concerns about omnibus legislation of this sort?
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM - 0 Comments
Amid all else yesterday, Nathan Cullen rose on a point of order shortly after Question Period to argue that the way in which C-45 was referred to various committees for study was procedurally illegitimate.
Scott Brison then rose on his own point of order to argue that the maneuvering at the finance committee was out of order.
Meanwhile, the Green Party has recruited Gord Downie, Leslie Feist and Sarah Harmer to oppose C-45′s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. And so the House returned to the drama, intrigue and tragedy of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Oh if only the Marquess of Lorne—John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll and fourth governor general of Canada—had known what he had wrought when he signed into law “an Act respecting Bridges over the navigable waters, constructed under the authority of Provincial Acts” on May 17, 1882. One wonders if he would have hesitated to put his signature on the bill if he’d known that one day its reform would be used to mercilessly mock the president of the Treasury Board.
“Mr. Speaker, members opposite must be getting dizzy from all the spin around their talking points on the Navigable Waters Protection Act,” the NDP’s Megan Leslie sighed this afternoon. “First, they claimed that the changes had nothing to do with environment. They were just reducing red tape for cottagers. However, even Conservatives knew that this law actually did have a role in environmental protection, although they did try to deny it by rewriting websites, and history.”
It is to the Macdonald government’s eternal shame that it did not enact a proper FAQ when it passed the act in 1882. So much of this month’s confusion might’ve been avoided.
“Yesterday, the finance minister changed his tune again and he said that these changes were actually about austerity,” Ms. Leslie claimed, feigning confusion. “So, what is the real answer here? Why is the government gutting environmental protection from the bill?”
Transport Minister Denis Lebel stood and, in his deliberate English, lamented for the great blight that the old bill had become over the last 130 years. Continue…
By David Newland - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 3:19 PM - 0 Comments
The semantic shift says it all. The new law doesn’t protect drivable highways. It protects driving
Consider the following (fictional) scenario, and see if it gets your dander up: The government of Canada is making fundamental changes to the way individuals can drive in this country.
Currently, Canadian drivers have the right to drive on any public freeway, highway, secondary highway, gravel road, dirt road, lane, alley, interchange, parking lot, ramp—indeed, any public route that can be driven on, is yours to drive upon.
This is not just a privilege; it’s a right; one that’s enshrined in a law called the Drivable Roadways Protection Act.
The law protects our drivable roadways from arbitrary interventions by landowners, agriculture, industry and other interests who might interfere, willfully or incidentally, with our driving rights by constructing works that impede on our drivable roadways.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 1:37 PM - 0 Comments
And John Geddes looks at how the Navigable Waters Protection Act relates to the environment.
Here’s perhaps the key point Saxe walked me through: four provisions in the Navigable Waters Protection Act automatically required an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Among them is the key federal power to approve building on navigable waters—structures like bridges, booms, dams and causeways. So approving or rejecting any of these sorts of projects required an environmental assessment under the CEAA regulations.
Or, at least, such assessments were required under the old CEAA. The Tories replaced that law earlier this year with a much-revised statute, which will mean fewer federal assessments in a more limited range of circumstances. But under the previous CEAA— passed in 1992 and in force until its repeal last summer—theNavigable Waters Protection Act was named in regulations as a law that triggered assessments. (You can search here for those regulations.) To claim then, as Fletcher did, that the act was only about navigation and never the environment, is, in Saxe’s words, “just wrong.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 9:15 AM - 0 Comments
Here is the text of Thomas Mulcair’s speech in the House yesterday—with periodic interjections from Conservative MPs—on C-45, the second budget implementation bill. He spoke just after Shelly Glover began the debate for the Conservatives.
Mr. Mulcair is mistaken on one point. Stephen Harper did not promise a price on carbon of $65 per tonne in a speech to the British Parliament. The speech was delivered at the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Speaker, in life, as in politics, everything revolves around whether we have credibility. I will read page 282 of the budget, because that is what my colleague was referring to. So we, along with all the Canadians who are watching, will know whether page 282 of the budget mentions the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
In life, as in politics, everything revolves around whether we have credibility. The member just told us that on page 282 of the budget we would find a reference to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I will now read page 282 of the budget. Under “Transport Portfolio”, it states:
“Organizations in the Transport portfolio identified a combination of productivity-enhancing and transformative measures that change the way programs and services are delivered and support the Government’s agenda of refocusing government and reducing red tape.”
I ask members to retain that term because, in the Conservatives’ mouths, reducing red tape is synonymous with reducing public protection. Walkerton, XL Foods and listeriosis is reducing public protection. That is a theme we will be talking a lot about this afternoon. I will continue.
“Non-core activities will be reduced while maintaining capacity related to core mandates in order to protect the safety of Canadians and support economic growth.”
“For example, VIA Rail Canada Inc. will pursue productivity improvements such as augmenting the performance of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems….”
Navigable Waters Protection Act? Not so far.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 5:28 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The Speaker called for oral questions and the game of charades was rejoined. Thomas Mulcair chastised the Harper government over its “cut” to Old Age Security. Stephen Harper stood and referred the Leader of the Opposition to the “changes” to Old Age Security.
Mr. Mulcair then pressed the matter of the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the current impasse with Mr. Harper’s government.
“The Act of the Parliament of Canada guarantees the Parliamentary Budget Officer access to all economic and financial data: $5.2 billion of cuts is economic information. In refusing to disclose such data to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the party of law and order knowingly violate the law,” he declared, a bit more animated now. “I ask the Prime Minister to put an end to legal barriers and disclose all financial data immediately. It’s the law!”
The Prime Minister pleaded his case. “Mr. Speaker, it is the government that created this law,” he clarified.
Indeed. But of what credit is the Prime Minister allowed here for having done so? Continue…
By John Geddes - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 5:21 PM - 0 Comments
Steven Fletcher, the minister of state for transport, couldn’t have been more emphatic earlier this week when he asserted in the House that the Navigable Waters Protection Act “has always been and remains about navigation and navigation only.” What the act isn’t about, and has never been about, Fletcher insisted, is “environmental protection.”
He was responding with exasperation to a question on Monday from the NDP’s Peggy Nash about why the government is amending the act in a way that means tens of thousands of lakes and rivers will no longer be covered by it. In Nash’s view, that means weakening environmental protection for those bodies of water. Fletcher suggested she just doesn’t get what the law is about.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Sometime between when I wrote this post last night and 10:30am this morning when a reader alerted me to the issue, Transport Canada’s FAQ for the Navigable Waters Protection Act disappeared from the Internet.
I asked the office of Transport Minister Denis Lebel to explain and received the following response.
For years, the Transport Canada website has consistently said “The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWAP) is an act respecting the protection of the public right to navigate.” The Act ensures a balance between the public right to navigate and the need to build works in navigable waters. That has never changed. Some pieces of inaccurate information have been removed. This link now contains correct information.
The FAQ has now reappeared. It appears to me that there are now no references to the “environment” within it.
Update 3:51pm. There now appear to be two references to the word “environment,” both in a single sentence.
Several federal departments and agencies have additional responsibilities to review the environmental impacts of tailings areas, including Environment Canada.
Update 4:14pm. The previous version had a section entitled “Questions about the Amendments to Navigable Waters Protection Act.” That section has been shortened and is now titled, “Questions about the 2009 Amendments to Navigable Waters Protection Act.” One of the questions that has been deleted was as follows.
Do these changes mean there will be a decline in environmental assessments?
Transport Canada is committed to a healthy and sound environment.
Before the Act was changed, many routine projects required detailed navigational reviews and environmental assessments – even when they involved waters that could not be practically navigated. The effort required to perform these assessments was not proportionate to the actual navigational and environmental risks associated with the project.
The revised Act will reduce the level of review of these minor projects and allow for more in-depth reviews of the substantial projects that are of greater concern to the Canadian public.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Of the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act that are included in the latest budget implementation act, the Conservatives have argued that the act is “not an environmental law” and insisted that the NWPA is about “navigation and navigation only.” On that note, Megan Leslie deferred yesterday to Transport Canada’s FAQ on the act.
Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities’s own web page contradicts his talking points. The Navigable Waters Protection Act FAQ alone mentions the environment 23 times, and the website says of the act: “These stiff new penalties reflect the government’s ongoing concern toward maintaining the safety of public navigation and the environment.” That is right, according to the department, the Navigable Waters Protection Act is about protecting the environment. Why is the minister so confused about his portfolio?
Denis Lebel: Mr. Speaker, changing the words “navigable waters” to “navigation” does not change the essence of this act. That is about navigation, and that is what we will continue to do. The member asks frequent questions about the environment, and the Minister of the Environment will continue to answer her. We will continue to answer her about navigation.
The FAQ in question is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 12:44 PM - 0 Comments
Olivia Chow will table a motion at the transport committee today that would have the committee study “all transport and infrastructure-related aspects of C-45, especially the changes proposed to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.”
The New Democrats tried similar motions around C-38 without success.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 19, 2012 at 2:03 PM - 0 Comments
During QP this morning, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen declared that changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act were not in the spring budget. John Baird begged to differ.
He talked about the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This was contained in page 282 of the budget.
Here is the spring budget. Page 282 reads as follows.
Organizations in the Transport portfolio identified a combination of productivity-enhancing and transformative measures that change the way programs and services are delivered and support the Government’s agenda of refocusing government and reducing red tape. Non-core activities will be reduced while maintaining capacity related to core mandates in order to protect the safety of Canadians and support economic growth.
For example, VIA Rail Canada Inc. will pursue productivity improvements such as augmenting the performance of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems on board trains to reduce maintenance costs, reduce energy consumption, and increase passenger comfort. It will also implement automation projects such as electronic ticketing and invoicing systems.
These two paragraphs are followed by a table which details cuts to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, Marine Atlantic Inc., The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated, Transport Canada and VIA Rail Canada Inc.