We live in unicorn land: senator says McKenna’s overhaul of environmental law disregards economic realities

Senator Douglas Black says the government’s plan to overhaul rules governing Canada’s resources and energy industries would gut our economic future.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

Senator Douglas Black says the government’s plan to overhaul rules governing Canada’s resources and energy industries would gut our economic future.

“We are committing hara-kiri on our economy. Like no other country in the world does this. Nobody does this but us,” said Black of Bill C-69’s sweeping changes to the environmental review process for extractive and transmission sectors.

“We must be the laughing stock of the world,” he told The Post Millennial on Friday.

A day earlier at the senate environment and resources committee, Black delivered a stinging assessment of the proposed legislation and the problems it’s already created.

“We had (Bank of Canada) Governor (Stephen) Poloz before us yesterday and I’ll just tell you what he said: He’s ‘unhappy with the economic performance of the country at this time’,” Black told Environment minister Catherine McKenna. “He said in large part, that is tied to the declining natural resource industry, because there is no certainty.”

“How can this possibly be good for First Nations, who are trying to break the cycle of poverty,” continued Black. “How could this be good for Canada and how could it be good for the middle class who are the very folks losing jobs?”

McKenna responded that she is “the Environment minister for everyone, including energy workers…and that certainty will come.”

View McKenna’s answer:

The exchange between the independent senator from Alberta and McKenna followed an equally firm rebuke from Nunavut’s Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson, who cited a raft of pipeline companies who testified the law would squelch development, causing capital to flee the country.

“Regardless of your claims on investment, this is what actual investors are saying – they are the ones with the money,” said Patterson. “Are you concerned by these comments?”

McKenna remained steadfast the bill would bring certainty to the resource sector, while appealing to her own authority having worked alongside the industry in South East Asia.

“I get it. I actually don’t know if many of you know this, but I worked in Indonesia doing oil and gas law, at a corporate law firm….where I worked on oil and gas projects,” McKenna told senators, referencing her work with the UN in East Timor where as a senior negotiator she meted out exploration rights to the fledgling state.

“I understand we are competing with the world,” she said. View her complete response here:

But Black is unconvinced McKenna grasps the threat her own legislation poses to the Canadian economy, or that the government would alter course.

“It’s like a different universe. I felt yesterday at the committee she and I were on completely different planets,” said Black. “To date they’ve been impervious…to (the criticism) that’s come at them and I don’t see any evidence that they’re willing to make meaningful compromise at this point.”

As for McKenna’s view that conditions would improve for the energy sector after Bill C-69 is in force, the senator dismissed it outright.

“We live in unicorn land, believe and it will be. Unfortunately that’s not my experience,” Black told The Post Millennial. “And we in good ole Canada will have impaled ourselves. And this is supposed to be good judgement? This is supposed to be good governing? I don’t understand.”

*clarification: Senator Black’s remarks about the government committing Japanese ritual suicide on the Canadian economy (hara-kiri), were made about C-69 in conjunction with Bill C-48, the proposed oil tanker ban for the West Coast.


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