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Opinion: We need faster, fairer assessments of major energy projects – Financial Post

Mar 06, 2024

Revised federal law should require assessors to consider projects’ economic and geopolitical implications and also decide promptly

Last October, the Supreme Court of Canada found most of the federal Impact Assessment Act, previously known as Bill C-69, unconstitutional. The justices ruled that the law, adopted five years ago, is too broad and seeks to regulate activities within provincial jurisdiction. Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault has promised to introduce a “tightened” version of the bill that respects the division of powers.

In order to ensure broad public support for the process, in particular from Indigenous and provincial stakeholders, I believe the federal government should also take a more pragmatic and balanced approach when approving or rejecting major projects. Instead of intruding on the provinces’ jurisdiction over the environment, it should take into consideration other relevant (and crucial) aspects that are the purview of a national government.

More often than not, there is a trade-off between the economic benefits provided by a development project and its environmental costs. But it is economic growth that gives us the means and inclination to better deal with environmental degradation and ultimately even reverse it. In short, the richer we are, the easier it becomes to protect the environment.

That is why any environmental assessment of a large energy project must be coupled with an assessment of its impact on: the national economy, job creation, investment opportunities across the country and on Canada’s reputation as an attractive destination for international investors. Such a balanced approach would show that the government is serious when it says it cares both about the economic well-being of Canadians and protection of the environment.

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