Michael Fortier urges for amendments to environmental assessment bill

January 28, 2019

Partner Michael Fortier has voiced his hope for “amendments to a federal bill before the Senate that would ensure more certainty around the timelines of project assessments” in a piece written by Law Times.

The article focused on Bill C-69, the federal government’s bill to reform the environmental assessment process, which has reached the committee stage in the Senate. While a number of senators, as well as environmental lawyers, have publicly stated their hopes to see amendments, there are still certain industries objecting to it.

For Michael, much of his concern surrounds the timeliness of project assessments.

“For proponents, their question is, ‘How long is this process going to take me?’” Michael told Law Times.

“The way [the bill] is currently, with so many potential off-ramps in terms of timing, where the clock can be stopped, it’s hard to give an aggregate time.”

Michael also noted the ability to “stop the clock” can add years to an approval process, which is especially frustrating in industries like mining, where people compete across industries and certainty around timing matters to proponents.

On a broader scope, Michael would also like to see a stronger language bill, ensuring a robust assessment process has greater protections from challenging litigation.

He also cautioned against setting “the threshold for the appeal mechanism too low.

“You get basically a second whole process reassessing the first process, as opposed to a narrower check and balance,” he said.

However, he pointed out this threshold is not related to the government’s obligations to consult Indigenous people, maintaining their treaty and land rights.

“If you’re asking everybody to invest in a good process that will take lots of time, resources and effort, unless there’s some way that the process has gone terribly wrong, you should be respecting that process and not having opportunities to re-do it in various forums,” Michael concluded.

For more insight from our environmental team, see the relevant practice page.

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