Bill C-69: Senate helps improve resource project reviews
The legislation improves the rules for the assessment of major projects to protect the environment and waterways, and to provide certainty and predictable timelines to industry and investors.
During the 2015 federal election campaign, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau committed to reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment processes in response to significant public concern about the changes made in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. He followed through on that promise after being elected as Prime Minister. The review heard from thousands of Canadians from across the country over the course of two years. The result was Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The bill expanded the focus of assessments to include consideration of economic and social impacts, in addition to environment effects. It also ensured consideration of Indigenous rights, provided opportunities for meaningful public participation and restored lost protections for navigable waters.
The Senate’s Role
The Senate began its study of the legislation in September 2018. The Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources heard from 277 witnesses over 108 hours of meetings in 10 cities across the country between February and May 2019, ultimately proposing many significant amendments to the bill, including to reduce ministerial discretion, to better define the scope of an assessment earlier in the process and to increase the role of life cycle regulators. Senator Grant Mitchell, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, thanked Senators for their thorough study of the legislation. “Bill C-69 has been built upon a very credible policy process based upon broad public consultation, enhanced by extensive parliamentary review. The Senate has done a remarkable job in our intense year-long deliberations on this bill. The Government has listened and responded in a very significant way.”
The House of Commons accepted a historic 99 of the proposed Senate amendments, the greatest number since this information began to be recorded in the 1940s. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada Catherine McKenna thanked the Senate for proposing “a variety of thoughtful improvements to the bill.” She outlined how the accepted amendments fulfill the Government’s policy goals of rebuilding public trust, protecting the environment, respecting Indigenous people’s rights, and providing certainty for industry and investors. The Senate concurred with the House of Commons and Bill C-69 received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.