The Canadian Senate has approved legislation intended to change how major projects such as oil pipelines are assessed, though with more than 180 amendments. Bill C-69 will now go back to the House of Commons where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government must decide which amendments it will accept.
Amendments include removing the power of the federal Environment Minister to veto a project and altering how the effect of climate change is considered in the regulatory process. Many of the amendments were recommended by the oil and gas industry, and environmental groups have previously railed against unelected senators having such an impact on the bill.
In 2015, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-69 to fulfil its election promise to streamline and restore trust in the environmental approval process for major projects. The legislation in its original form was fiercely opposed by the oil industry and the Alberta government. Critics said it would deter investment in the sector by creating uncertainty and giving too much power to federal ministers to veto projects.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney welcomed the Senate's decision to pass the bill with the unusually high number of amendments, saying, “While we believe the Senate's revised version of Bill C-69 is still problematic, we believe that it is a very significant improvement, and therefore urge the Government of Canada to allow the bill to proceed to royal assent as amended."
In a statement, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said, "We are carefully considering the Senate's proposed amendments and thank them for their work. Our government is open to amendments that will strengthen and improve the Bill.”