Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Bill, with its various amendments to Canada’s environmental laws, is a complicated statute, with many long-term implications that have not been fully explored. One of the most significant, however, has to be the possibility that the Bill may have the effect of offloading responsibility for the protection of fish habitat to some or all of the provinces. The amendments create both:
- a legal mechanism for the offloading of responsibility for fish habitat, and
- a weakening of fish habitat protection provisions that will leave gaps that put pressure on provinces who wish to see responsible stewardship of fish and fish habitat to assume such responsibility.
If this offloading occurs, it is likely to result in a significant additional burden on cash-strapped provinces, and, as a result, less effective protection of fish and fish habitat, and inconsistent protection between jurisdictions. This would mean a less efficient, and less effective, Fisheries Act for all of Canada.