FORT MCMURRAY, AB, April 10, 2019 – The Coalition of Canadian Municipalities for Energy Action shared their concerns on Bill C-69 at the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources hearing in Fort McMurray, Alberta today.
The Coalition is a grassroots effort that arose from municipal concerns surrounding Bill C-69, and includes cities, towns, regional municipalities, and counties. As local leaders in their communities, municipal officials are on the front lines of any potential impact, both intended or unintended.
“The resource industry, including hydro, mining, forestry and energy, like oil and gas, is the lifeblood of many communities in Canada and we appreciate the opportunity to share that perspective with the Senate committee,” said Don Scott, Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Coalition co-lead. “We outlined several concerns and recommendations unique to municipalities that we hope Senators will consider to improve this bill.”
“Many municipalities echo the concerns we raised today,” added Gene Sobolewski, Mayor of Bonnyville and Coalition co-lead. “The unintended consequences of the vague and all-purpose language in Bill C-69 and its sweeping legislative change are deeply concerning to members of the Coalition.”
Items of concern include the following:
1. Municipalities are obligated by legislation to provide frontline services to residents at reasonable tax rates. Bill C-69 does not clearly outline the financial and administrative burden for municipalities. There is concern that this uncertainty will lead business and industry to invest elsewhere. The purpose of the bill should be to improve investor confidence, strengthen the Canadian economy, encourage prosperity, and improve competitiveness. We would like to see these principles reflected in the legislation.
2. The term jurisdiction should be expanded to include local municipalities, specifically in section 2 (d) and section 12. This will ensure a voice to those directly affected by a project and that proposed projects are considered with a greater understanding of environmental, health, social, and economic implications.
3. With the bill’s proposed new regulatory structure there is concern that progress on municipal infrastructure projects will be impeded. The language of the bill is open to interpretation and does not provide the necessary clarity on municipal land-use planning, waterway use, indigenous consultation or federal grants. For this reason, there are sections where municipalities should receive explicit exemption. Municipal projects should not be subject to this legislation.
4. Amendments to the Navigation Protection Act raise questions about how terms including navigable water, vessels and works are defined in relation to water bodies. There should be specific language that incorporates municipal knowledge and guidance into the decision-making process.
5. Municipalities across Canada rely on federal and provincial grants to upgrade or rehabilitate aging infrastructure. The language in Bill C-69 could escalate project costs, create uncertainty for project approval, jeopardize the consistency of funding streams, and foster unpredictability in the public process.
6. The Supreme Court, has affirmed the duty to consult with Indigenous Communities and this principle is enshrined in the Constitution of Canada. There is concern that Bill C-69 will create duality of process and require the courts to provide clarity. Municipalities can ill-afford this type of ambiguity in the execution of major projects such as the construction of bridges, landfills or sewage lagoons.
For an overview of members and for municipalities interested in joining our growing efforts, please visit www.energytowns.ca. There, members of the public can also directly contact their local Senators on this issue.