Energy East, Pacific NorthWest LNG, Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain pipeline – these are some of the more high-profile multibillion-dollar projects that have been killed, cancelled or postponed on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s watch.
But if Canadians think it’s tough now to get a new pipeline approved in Canada under the current environmental review process, just wait until they see what’s in store under the new Impact Assessment Act, warns a business lobby called Suits and Boots.
The new act – Bill C-69, which is still before the Senate – would replace the Environmental Assessment Act with the Impact Assessment Act.
“Bill C-69 is supposed to be the solution to our regulatory problems, but the business community feels it will add to them,” said Val Litwin, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.
Among the concerns over the new act is that it would make it easier to achieve standing as an intervener.
“There’s no barrier of standing, so any number of paid political protesters, any group at all that wants to jam the hearings, has free rein to do so,” said Rick Peterson, president of Peterson Capital and founder of Suits and Boots, which represents 2,500 business people and investors. “Everybody we speak to who finances the energy sector is vehemently opposed to Bill C-69.”
Canada has already seen a flight of capital by large energy companies. While the U.S. posted a 38% increase in investment in the oil and gas sector in 2017 – a total of $140 billion – investment in Canada’s oil and gas sector fell 19%, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
If Bill C-69 becomes law, it will only deter investment more, Peterson said. His group is lobbying the Senate to kill the bill.
“There will be a strike on investing capital in Canada,” Peterson said. “Why would foreign investors put money into Canada?”
Speaking to the BC Chamber of Commerce recently, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said that the protests and court challenges that have stalled the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project were the result of the current flawed regulatory process that lost the public’s trust.
Without that trust, “you will end up in court, and you will end up with protests,” McKenna said.
She said the new Impact Assessment Act will let investors know up front if their projects have a chance of being approved, and eliminate some of the duplication between federal and provincial processes. And once projects are approved, she said, they will be more difficult to challenge in court.
“It’s also about doing better,” McKenna said. “It’s about having shorter, tighter timelines. It’s about working with provinces.”