Dear Prime Minister Harper,
The National Council of Women of Canada [NCWC] is deeply disappointed in your government’s rushed passage of Omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45 in 2012 which we think will undermine environmental protections, and threaten our country’s future, environmentally, economically and socially. We urge you to step back from the approach that appears to put commerce before the environment, and in the instead consider all environmental issues through a precautionary, multi-ministry, life cycle cost/benefit analysis lens.
Established in 1893, NCWC is one of the oldest Canadian educational and advocacy organizations working for the betterment of women, families and society, and in 2005 was designated a “National Heritage Institution” by the National Sites and Monuments Board.
Our environmental work began as early as 1910, when Local Councils of Women in Montreal and Toronto persuaded those cities to install water filtration systems. Since then, NCWC policies have advocated for such important issues as natural resources and wildlife (1923), acid rain (1976), conservation of water resources (1980),creation of a national river basin management policy (1985), and continued protection and restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem (2004).
In the past eight years however, your government has proceeded to dramatically weaken its commitment to environmental protections. An example is found in Bill C- 38, where the role of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has been altered to give the Minister of Environment and the Cabinet, rather than independent environmental regulators, the final say in determining how well the environment will be protected from potentially damaging projects such as pipelines.
Given government’s steady and cumulative progress over the preceding 100 years in protecting Canada’s environmental resources, NCWC is dismayed that this past year the voices of others in government and of environmental groups failed to prevent a significant weakening of a variety of important well-established Acts of Parliament such as the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
We find it unacceptable that these important changes, were thrown together into the Omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45, which would seem to benefit commercial interests, rather than the environment, and were rushed through both Parliament and the Senate with scant time for public input, proper in-depth debate and close Parliamentary Committee scrutiny.
This narrow government focus on ‘lessening’ barriers for commercial development interests neglects to take into account the huge economic and environmental risks for other sectors of our society and economy of some projects. For example, there appears to be no account taken of the long term costs to communities, to tourism or damage to habitat relied upon by fishermen, First Nations or the Inuit in the event of accidents, oil spills or fire.
The life cycle analysis work of the renowned Experimental Lakes project and its studies on acid rain, the fish and forestry industry and pollution abatement, has demonstrated enormous lasting cost savings in these areas.
The National Council of Women of Canada urges your government to scrutinize all pieces of Federal Legislation that have the potential to harm our treasured environment, to measure their impacts on the basis of a “precautionary life-cycle cost/benefit analysis” and to recommend environmentally protective changes.
Denise Mattok, President
National Council of Women of Canada