Océans en santé. Communautés en santé

Conservative Government’s economic stimulus package may cost Canada the health of the environment

January 22, 2009

SOINTULA, B.C. ─ The Conservative government is using Canada’s struggling economy as an excuse to put our environment at risk, claims Living Oceans Society, a marine conservation organization based in British Columbia. Regulations that are currently proposed for inclusion in next week’s federal budget will exempt all projects valued at less than 10 million dollars from the Environmental Assessment process.

Living Oceans Society has also learned the Conservative government plans to throw out the entire Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in favour of a weaker new law to be introduced in March or April.

“A healthy economy is built on the foundation of a healthy environment,” said Jennifer Lash, Living Oceans Society’s Executive Director. “With this in mind, the environmental assessment process was established by Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government to improve the sustainability of new and growing economic activity. Now Harper’s government wants to gut the process and allow industry to develop without public input and without examining risks to the environment. This puts at risk our natural environment and the long term health of our economy.”

While this change in regulations will affect many industries, of particular concern in B.C. is the issue of fish farms. Currently, new fish farm applications go through a federal environmental assessment screening. This critical safety net would be removed if the Conservative plans are implemented.

Sea lice infestations on juvenile wild salmon and other negative impacts from salmon farming put at risk wild fisheries that have supported the coastal economy for generations. Exempting fish farms from the environmental assessment process is just one example of the Conservative government’s failure to consider long term economic sustainability in their attempts to grasp at a short term political win.

“We need a budget that takes a long view of economic recovery, and environmental assessments are a key tool for informed decision making,” Lash said. “While the loss of jobs and Canada’s economic health must be effectively addressed, we cannot sacrifice our natural capital for the sake of short term economic stimulus.”

Canada’s Environmental Assessment Act was passed in 1992 to review projects’ environmental effects, promote sustainability and give the public a say in economic development proposals that will impact community interests. An environmental assessment occurs when a project seeks regulatory approval, property transfer, funding, or is federally managed. If the Conservatives have their way, all this may be lost.