The Senate committee studying the Liberal government’s impact-assessment legislation will hold hearings in communities around the country that would be impacted – either positively or negatively – by major project development.
In a closed-door hearing Tuesday, the Senate’s Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources adopted a motion to schedule hearings outside Ottawa, while noting it has tight deadlines to deliver a report.
“The goal is to get to resources communities or Indigenous communities where people haven’t felt heard in the past," said Alberta’s Paula Simons, a member of the Independent Senators Group who tabled the motion.
Senator Simons said the committee needs to avoid unduly extending its deliberations with the road show but instead must wrap its work to get an amended version back to the full Senate, and then back to the House of Commons so that it can be dealt with before Parliament rises in June ahead of a federal election in the fall. The committee must also get a travel budget approved by the Red Chamber’s internal economy committee.
Industry supporters and conservative politicians – who argue the legislation would kill future pipeline and other major projects – have urged the committee to visit resource communities to hear about the economic impacts and jobs that development projects bring to their towns.
While the legislation has created a storm of opposition in Alberta, the committee also intends to visit Indigenous communities as well as towns in eastern Canada and Quebec to examine the wide-ranging impacts of the Liberal government’s Bill C-69, which overhauls how Ottawa reviews major resource developments and other big infrastructure projects.
Many Albertans and oil industry executives are particularly critical of the Liberal bill, arguing new complexities and vague language will result in an interminable process that will dissuade companies from proposing oil and gas pipelines or other major developments. The legislation would create an Impact Assessment Agency that would review major projects to determine whether they are in the public interest, taking into consideration economic factors as well as environmental and social impacts and Indigenous rights. It would establish new tighter timelines, but critics say there are too many loopholes that allow delays.
The Liberal government insists the bill will restore public trust in a review process that has become mired in polarized politics and legal battles, but Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has indicated the government is open to accepting some amendments from the Senate.