Unpacking the budget bill

As noted yesterday, the budget implementation bill tabled yesterday by the Conservatives numbers 431 pages of legislation. Included therein: changes to food regulation, an overhaul of environmental regulations, the repeal of climate change accountability legislation, changes to the protection of fish habitats and the elimination of the CSIS inspector general.

Speaking to reporters after QP yesterday, Nathan Cullen, the new opposition House leader, was unimpressed.

They are doing this simply to curry favour with their best friends in the oil patch.  This is all about pipelines.  This is about projects that don’t have the merit on their own to stand up to Canadian law. So what they’re doing is destroying Canadian law.  The part of the Fisheries Act that is being destroyed here is the most significant environmental protection that we have.  It applies to just about everything that we do and it now puts essentially an open gate on every project that the oil industry wants to put forward. It’s fundamental. And the fact that they bury it deep within a budget implementation bill shows that the government knows that on the surface Canadians will not tolerate this, would not allow even a debate …  

If Canadians knew the truth of what’s hiding in the depths of this bill, they would be outraged. Now I’m not talking about one part of the political spectrum. I think this goes right across the board that people who like to fish, who like to hunt, people who like to have a clean environment are going to be deeply concerned with a government that won’t even have a discussion or a debate about changing fundamentally the way that we approach protecting our environment. It’s hugely dangerous and quite offensive to me as a Canadian.

Elizabeth May was equally concerned.

In terms of parliamentary procedure, this is a very clever move that deprives any of the substantial elements of legislation from ever going before a committee with specialized knowledge in this area. So by taking the Fisheries Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, plus the National Energy Board Act and numerous other acts, and putting them in one bill of 420 pages to go to a finance committee, this bill, it is simply impossible that the provisions of this legislation will ever be adequately examined before they enter into law plus they’ve repealed the Kyoto Implementation Act, they’re repealing the National Roundtable Act, this is all in one big piece of disastrous legislation for the environment.

In a note to reporters yesterday afternoon, the press secretary to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said that while it was “routine” for legislation such as the government’s “Responsible Resource Development” legislation to be included in the budget bill, “we will create a special sub-committee to study the Responsible Resource Development legislation.”