Another ominous omnibus bill

Linda Leon Open letter to MP Ryan Leef: In December, the Conservative government passed Bill C-45, which like previous omnibus bills, was rushed in order to prevent close scrutiny by members of Parliament or the public. While not as large and complex as

Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:

In December, the Conservative government passed Bill C-45, which like previous omnibus bills, was rushed in order to prevent close scrutiny by members of Parliament or the public. While not as large and complex as Bill C-38 or the Crime Bill, it contains several items that many Canadians would have concerns about if they only knew.

Amendments to the Indian Act have the government arbitrarily changing the tribal voting system. They have removed land designation approval once shared by the federal cabinet and communities with approval by the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

The amendments to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act are troublesome to people in my field. Working as a scenic artist in film and stage, I have had intimate experience with hazardous materials.

“The Hazardous Materials Information Review Act would be amended to transfer the responsibilities and functions of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission to Health Canada and, as a result, the commission would cease as a stand-alone agency.”

Surely it would have been better to maintain the arms-length review commission. Now reviews are left to whims of the health minister, who is under no obligation to consult with workers or experts.

I thought the act existed to protect workers from harmful chemicals. Silly me! According to the Conservative government, “The amendments to the act will not affect its primary purpose, which is to provide for the granting of exemptions under Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System so as to protect confidential business information.”

The Navigable Waters Protection Act has had its name changed to Navigation Protection Act. Apparently the Conservative government is sensitive to the word “water” and all the other words that go with it. I imagine that the song Cool Water is on the long list of songs verboten at Conservative gatherings.

Amendments to this act are a continuation of the Conservative government’s abdication of responsibility to protect water and water habitats. While the NPA prohibits dumping or dewatering of navigable waters, this leaves 99 per cent of our rivers and lakes without protection. The Canadian Press recently reported that there were plans to fill in four healthy lakes in Nunavut as a part of a resource project owned by MMG Minerals, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned Minmetals Resources Ltd.

Are the Upper Fraser and Kitimat rivers even included in the list of protected waterways? While the act refers to bridges and other constructions, pipelines are not mentioned. Since there is a plan afoot to use the Fraser River as an ocean tanker highway, this is even more disturbing.

The act allows companies to voluntarily opt into the plan. All of the foxes guarding hen houses are ecstatic.

“Canadian waters will continue to be protected by Transport Canada’s marine safety laws, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and various provincial statutes.”

The CEAA was gutted and the Fisheries Act was deformed to favour resource interests over the health of the environment in Omnibus Budget Bill C-38. Our own territorial government is committed to resource development regardless of environmental or social costs. They have embraced the Conservative government’s style of tactics and studiously avoid transparency. I am not encouraged by this.

I thought that Canadians had become habituated to being railroaded by their own government. So I was pleasantly surprised by the Idle No More movement. I also notice that a Forum Research poll published in Maclean’s magazine found that only 14 per cent of respondents agreed with the use of omnibus bills by the federal government. The penny is slowly dropping, Ryan.

So what are you going to do to protect Yukoners from the destructive consequences of your own government’s polices? What can you do? I am afraid that you are even more toothless than you would be if you were a member of another party or even sitting as an independent.

May you walk on the high road.

Linda Leon is a Whitehorse freelance writer.