Yesterday, the Alberta government introduced Bill 22, the latest in a string of measures that dismantle provincial environmental regulations under the guise of addressing a global health crisis. The bill would eliminate the government’s responsibility to approve new oil sands projects and to consult with First Nations, leaving it all to the province’s industry-captured regulator. A government’s role in environmental assessment processes is to ensure that we look before we leap – before we commit ourselves to major industrial projects that will last for decades.
Removing public oversight will directly harm the lives and livelihoods of people in the province. The tar sands are linked to higher rates of cancer in nearby communities, widespread and permanent destruction of land and waterways which First Nations, Métis and other northern communities rely on, and significant harm to biodiversity. They are also the largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. With this bill, the government of Alberta has abdicated responsibility for protecting residents from these harms.
Ironically, this move will likely increase international investor skepticism over investing in the Alberta oil industry – a jurisdiction increasingly seen as an environmental outlier. The Alberta government should withdraw this bill and re-commit itself to the health and safety of all who live and work in the province.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.
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