06/20/2016 14:22 EDT | Updated 06/21/2017 01:12 EDT

Five things to know about pending Liberal overhaul of environmental assessments

OTTAWA — The Liberals have begun a public consultation to review the way major resource projects are assessed and approved. Here's five things to know about the 2012 changes to Canada's project application system that are the target of the Liberal review:

1. The Conservative government produced two omnibus budget implementation bills following their March 2012 budget. The two pieces of legislation together filled almost 900 pages and made changes to 138 acts or regulations, including axing the First Nations Statistical Institute and allowing the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to have temporary members for up to three years. The four Saskatchewan women who founded the Idle No More grassroots movement said the omnibus bills were the first spark for their movement.

2. Bill C-38, the first omnibus bill, repealed the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and replaced it with a new act that reduced the number and scope of project assessments that would be required. It also allowed Ottawa to delegate assessment authority to a province, reduced public participation opportunities and put in legislated timelines for completing the review.

3. Bill C-38 altered the Fisheries Act regulations to permit the alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat that was not related to a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery.

4: Bill C-38 stripped the National Energy Board of the power to grant or refuse a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a pipeline proposal, and gave that power to cabinet. The Liberal government appears to have embraced this change, with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr repeatedly asserting that ultimately cabinet will decide on resource proposals such as Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

5. Bill C-45, the second omnibus budget bill of 2012, changed and renamed the old navigable waters act as the Navigation Protection Act. The new bill stripped protections from all but 97 Canadian lakes and 62 rivers, along with the oceans that border Canada. The old laws had forced project proponents to prove their pipeline or power line wouldn't damage any waterway that was navigable, including by canoe. Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Monday that some unspecified changes from 2012 may be found to have been reasonable and could be left in place.

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