Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks in the House of Commons on June 14, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced on Monday a new four-person expert panel to study how environmental assessments are done, as a way to make sure decisions about development projects such as pipelines and mines are based on evidence — including traditional indigenous knowledge — and involve consultations with the public.
"It's pretty clear that, like so many other consultation processes that the Liberal government has embarked upon, this process is designed and, quite frankly, rigged to get the outcome they want."The records show Northey also gave $250 to Raynolds during the candidate nomination contest in 2014. The Elections Canada database, which includes four different versions of Northey's name, also shows he has given $12,700 to the Greens and $3,000 to the NDP over the same dozen years. Caitlin Workman, a spokeswoman for McKenna, said Northey was chosen because he deserved the job. "Mr. Northey, like the rest of the panel members, was selected based on knowledge, experience and expertise related to environmental assessment processes," said Workman. She later added he was chosen from a list of qualified candidates provided by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
"Mr. Northey quite literally wrote the book on environmental assessment.""I would just add that Mr. Northey quite literally wrote the book on environmental assessment," Workman wrote in an email, referring to fact that he is the author of the Guide to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and a number of other relevant publications from his 30 years as a prominent lawyer who specializes in the field. "So he is eminently and specifically qualified for this role," she said. Workman did not directly answer a question as to whether McKenna had been aware of the donations, only pointing to the fact that they were disclosed publicly as the Canada Elections Act requires. Northey has not responded to requests for comment.
Tories also appointed donorsThe Conservative record on this front is not entirely clean. The Canadian Press reported in 2013 that as many as one of every five chairpersons on the Employment Insurance Board of Referees had made political donations — despite government rules that forbid it — with all but one of the contributions going to Conservatives. Fast said political donations should not automatically disqualify someone from being named to a panel like this, but they raise legitimate questions. "Canadians have a right to look at an appointee's history to see whether there are things that could cause him to be biased and certainly that is the conclusion one would draw from seeing his donation history," Fast said.
Ethics safeguardsWhatever the history, there will likely be constraints on any political donations while Northey is on the panel. Christian Vezeau, a spokesman for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, said that while panel members are not government employees, they will nonetheless be guided by the values and ethics code for the public sector, which sets out expectations for non-partisanship and avoiding conflicts of interest.
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