Second omnibus budget bill alters Navigable Waters Protection Act

A new omnibus bill was introduced in the House of Commons this morning, including notable revisions to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) that reduces what the government considers "navigable waters" to just 97 lakes listed at the back of the bill, from three million. It also implemented measures in the omnibus budget bill passed in the spring.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May, who led a 22-hour marathon session of amendments in Parliament to delay the vote on bill C-38, said that her primary concerns were the sweeping changes to environmental assessments and NWPA. 

"If not a question of whether water is navigable, its whether you can find a body of water listed in the back of the Act," May told The Vancouver Observer.
Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty's spokesperson Chisholm Pothier responded to questions about the relevance of changes to the NWPA in a budget bill by citing a transcript of an exchange in the House of Commons between NDP Finance critic Peggy Nash and Flaherty.

"Another massive budget bill jammed with non-budgetary items, from overhauling the Grain Act to gutting the Navigable Waters Act. So only 10 heritage rivers will still be protected. But this is after exempting pipelines altogether. So will the Minister now agree to split up this monster bill and allow MPs To properly scrutinize these radical changes?" Nash asked.

"One of the pillars of the budget was the deficit reduction action plan. Part of that with the issues at environment and the Navigable Waters Act, all of these matters are matters with reference to the budget that was delivered on March 29th, many months ago. And if members haven't bothered to read it and haven't bothered to pay attention, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, they ought to perhaps take the weekend and review it," Flaherty responded.

Cullen calls for splitting bill to discuss each component separately

NDP MP and Opposition House Leader Nathan Cullen said his staff is combing through 450 pages of dense, unwieldy wording in bill C-45.
"There's 450 pages of complicated text. There's nothing obvious about it. There's certainly more eroding of environmental protections and changing the way we do economic development," he said.

Flaherty's spokesperson did not comment on Cullen's statement.

Bill C-45 is a follow up to the controversial omnibus bill C-38, a bill numbering over 400 pages. It reforms the employment insurance system, overhauls environmental protection and fisheries laws, fast tracks the environmental assessment process for natural resource development projects, and raises the eligibility age for old age security.
The full bill can be found here.

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