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Canada’s new Liberal government vows to “make environmental assessments credible again”

by Greg Klein | October 19, 2015

Updated results:

  • Liberals 184 seats, 39.5% of the vote
  • Conservatives 99 seats, 31.9%
  • New Democratic Party 44 seats, 19.7%
  • Bloc Québécois 10 seats, 4.7%
  • Greens 1 seat, 3.4%

Whether it resulted from policies or campaigning, luck or charisma, Canada’s natural governing party re-established itself with another Trudeau at the helm on October 19. Miners and explorers might now wonder how the new Liberal government’s policies—backed by an overwhelming number of seats, if not the popular vote—will affect their industry. The party promised to retain the 15% flow-through tax credit for mineral exploration. Of likely greater consequence, the Liberals also promised an immediate review of the federal environmental assessment process, to be followed by an overhaul.

Canada’s new Liberal government vows to “make environmental assessments credible again”

Trudeau proved himself a winning campaigner.
Now he has to prove himself a prime minister.
(Photo: Liberal Party of Canada)

Among the reforms would be an end to duplication with provincial and territorial assessments. Those who consider the process increasingly subjective might welcome the pledge to “ensure that decisions are based on science, facts and evidence, and serve the public’s interest.”

Proposals would be required to use “the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.” A new emphasis would be placed on upstream impacts and greenhouse gas emissions. Ministerial interference would be banned.

Like all parties, the Liberals emphasized their commitment to native participation. The party pledged to include first nations, Inuit and the Metis Nation in its “full review of laws, policies and operational practices.”

How these regulatory changes will play out, of course, remains to be seen. Justin Trudeau, a wealthy, life-long celebrity with no accomplishments outside his seven-year political career, still has to demonstrate conviction, not to mention an ability to govern. But his stunning electoral success has already proven many detractors wrong.

A footnote to Trudeau’s career would be his 2005 campaign to block a proposed zinc mine in the Northwest Territories. “I’m not saying mining is wrong and there are lots of places there should be mines,” Canadian Press quoted him. “But that is not the place for it. It’s just the wrong thing to be doing.”

A footnote to the election would be the sudden resignation of Liberal campaign co-chairperson Dan Gagnier after he advised pipeline advocate TransCanada Corp on how to lobby a new Liberal government. Gagnier, it transpired, was on TransCanada’s payroll.

Maybe one of the campaign’s better exchanges happened between Trudeau and David Suzuki, who relayed some comments in a CBC interview reported by the National Post. The Liberal leader asked him for an endorsement, Suzuki said. But an argument broke out when Suzuki accused Trudeau of playing politics. Suzuki said Trudeau told him: “I don’t have to listen to this sanctimonious crap.” Suzuki responded by calling him “a twerp.”

The environmental guru told CBC that only the Greens take his issues seriously. Leader Elizabeth May won the party’s sole seat, in a West Coast riding where car culture reigns supreme.

As for the defeated Conservative leader, maybe the surprise is that a charismatically challenged “outsider” like Stephen Harper could have held the prime minister’s job at all, let alone for three terms. National Post writer Christie Blatchford offered sympathetic insight into his supposed sins.

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