Rewriting Laws in 2016

The Globe and Mail wrote an interesting editorial today arguing that the Liberal Party should rewrite a number of laws in 2016. These laws include:

  1. Criminal sentencing reform (mandatory minimum and solitary confinement laws)
  2. Marijuana laws
  3. Bill C-51 (the Anti-terrorism Act)

And the list ends there. No mention of any environmental legislation, namely Bill C-38. Of course, the Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Economic Act, is not technically an environmental law, but it does function as such.

The book (Canadian Environment in Political Context) grapples with C-38 briefly in Chapter Six in regards to water. But it worth discussing more deeply here as there is a real opportunity for the Liberal Party to revoke or amend some of the provisions in C-38.

Brenda Heelan Powell from the Environmental Law Center does an excellent job explaining how Bill C-38, passed in 2012, impacts the environment. Here is a link to the overview. Essentially, C-38 made changes to

  1. Federal Environmental Assessment Law
  2. Fisheries Law
  3. Navigable Water Protection Act
  4. National Energy Board
  5. Canadian Environmental Protection Act
  6. Parks Canada Agency Act
  7. Canada National Parks Act
  8. Canada National Marine Conservation Act
  9. Coasting Trade Act
  10. Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act
  11. National Round Table on the Environment and Economy Act
  12. Nuclear Safety Control Act
  13. Seeds Act
  14. Species at Risk Act

Yes, essentially, this one budget bill made changes to 14 different environmental laws/procedures. It was a devastating blow to environmentalists. The Conservative Party opted not to use Parliament to discuss and amend these separate pieces of legislation, but instead use a sweeping budget bill in a majority government situation to alter the environmental policy terrain across the country. Previously, these 14 pieces of legislation were all debated and passed in Parliament (some dating back 100 years). If the government wants to alter any one of these laws, it should open it for debate and deal with each law independently. The environment is worth the trouble.

The Liberal Party under Trudeau and the leadership of Catherine McKenna as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change has a real opportunity to shape and improve environmental policy in the next 5 years. Obviously climate change looms large and is understandably the main focus. However, these 14 laws are each – in their own way – directly related to climate change and each is important its own right. Thus, the Trudeau-McKenna government should carefully consider each piece of legislation changed in C-38. Unlike the Globe and Mail, I think all of these laws are worth rewriting in 2016 and beyond.

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