Bureaucrats told Stephen Harper’s government environmental reforms would be ‘very controversial,’ records reveal

      Comments Off on Bureaucrats told Stephen Harper’s government environmental reforms would be ‘very controversial,’ records reveal
OTTAWA – Federal bureaucrats told the Harper government before it overhauled environmental protection laws last year that its reforms would be “very controversial,” reveal newly released internal records.

The briefing notes, marked “secret” but released to Postmedia News through access-to-information legislation, suggested that the government could work together with the oil and gas industry to promote the reforms, which are now the target of the Idle No More protests that accuse the government of neglecting the rights of First Nations.

The records include a list of suggested messages for Environment Minister Peter Kent’s parliamentary secretary, Michelle Rempel, to use in a Feb. 2, 2012 meeting with oilsands company Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL), in order to gain its support. At that time, a parliamentary committee was also reviewing environmental laws in order to make recommendations to the government.

“Resource development is certainly among the major industrial sectors that are top-of-mind as we consider the modernization of our regulatory system,” Rempel was asked to say during the meeting with Bill Clapperton, vice-president of stakeholder and environmental affairs with CNRL, according to the records.

“The reforms, when introduced, may be very controversial. I hope we can count on your support.”

Kent said Tuesday people will eventually see evidence that the changes will improve environmental protection.

“Human nature does not easily accommodate any change or the prospect of change,” Kent told Postmedia News. “When change does happen, there are often very legitimate concerns that develop until in the fullness of time, the changes that are made, fulfil the commitment and the promise of those who made the changes.”

CNRL declined comment.

NDP deputy leader and environment critic Megan Leslie said she was angry after reviewing the briefing material. She said it suggests Rempel was giving a company privileged information about a review done by a parliamentary committee before its report was tabled in the House of Commons.

Leslie said it also shows that Idle No More protesters are correct about highlighting inadequate consultations with First Nations. “The final (parliamentary) report basically said exactly what the Conservatives wanted it to say in preparation for the total gutting of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.”

The records are the latest in a series of internal documents demonstrating the government’s co-operation with industry in delivering the reforms that eliminated environmental reviews for nearly 3,000 projects last summer.

Liberal environment critic Kirsty Duncan also highlighted recent Idle No More protests, adding that she was troubled to learn Rempel was “trolling” for oil industry support before the government introduced its reforms, while environmental and First Nations groups were left in the dark.

“I don’t think it comes as a surprise,” Duncan said. “The government has an agenda to gut environmental assessment and fast-track development.”

The revelations in the latest documents coincided with questions Tuesday from Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who bluntly asked whether the government was considering merging Environment Canada with Natural Resources Canada. The claim was immediately dismissed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons, and again later by Kent, who noted that his department had important responsibilities and laws to oversee.

“Environment Canada is going nowhere,” Kent said.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Read more: http://www.canada.com/Bureaucrats+told+Stephen+Harper+government+environmental+reforms+would+very+controversial+records/7889843/story.html#ixzz2Jn9Wm65w