20 years ago Canada signed the Rio Declaration, committing us to carry out "environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument … [on] proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority." Claims of duplication and inefficiencies make compelling speaking points, the federal government's current proposals to "modernize" environmental assessment will, among other things:
- Renege on Canada’s commitment to the world to assess the impacts of government decisions on the environment;
- Eliminate all environmental assessments for a great many projects, up to and including mines, hydroelectric projects, incinerators, bridges, etc.;
- Result in inconsistent, and often weaker, environmental assessment across the country.
It’s easy to forget, with the current government’s overhaul of Canada’s environmental assessment laws, that it was another Conservative Government which, almost 20 years ago, committed internationally to developing a national environmental assessment process and to involving the public in environmental decision-making. It was Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who, in 1992 signed the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Economy on behalf of Canada.