The governments are going to great lengths to make sure corporations make a profit. Even with subsidies and government handouts, they pay a lot of tax and provide jobs. After the companies have made their money, and have pulled out, the taxpayers are on the hook for the environmental damage they caused. A good example of this is Northern Pulp in Pictou, Nova Scotia. In March, 2010 the government loaned them $75 million so it can purchase 475,000 acres of land from the company that previously operated the Abercrombie Point mill, Neenah Paper. But this isn’t the only time…
- Maintenance & Capital Expenditure ($15 million) – to fund projects in the Mill including wastewater pipeline replacement
- Precipitator Replacement Project ($12 million) – to assist in installing a state-of-the-art unit to improve the removal of dust particulates from the Mill’s air emissions*
- Chip Plant Project ($5.2 million) – to assist in installing a state-of-the-art on-site chip plant to reduce operating costs
- Natural Gas Project ($4.5 million) — to enable natural gas to be available at the Mill site in order to eliminate heavy oil consumption and reduce greenhouse gases
* The Mill received the repayable loan to replace the existing recovery boiler precipitator which will significantly reduce air particulates while saving the Company $1.3 million per year in chemical costs. This investment allows Northern Pulp to implement new technology sooner to improve air quality. Read more here. Then look at how they push back the environmental rules.
This isn’t anything new. Northern Pulp is only an example. We could see it coming…
Canada’s New Normal — Ignore Environmental Protection
Reposted with permission from EcoWatch
December 7, 2012
Stop right now. Look around, check the clock, mark the date. You need to remember this week.
Someday, probably well off in the future, you’ll be thinking about water and the environment, and trying to figure out when things changed.
Here’s the answer: This week. Now.
It’s no secret that the Canadian government has been undergoing some kind of post-environmentalism, re-envisioning exercise. I’m sure you’ve seen the stories about massive layoffs in federal environmental departments, heard about scientists being “muzzled” and listened to members of parliament debating sweeping changes to federal laws.
The exercise is over. The “new normal” is here.
For the last thirty years, Canada was a rule-of-law kind of country. Our environmental laws spelled out what you can’t do (for example, pollute or block a river). They spelled out how decisions had to be made (for example, major projects were reviewed by independent panels, with input from qualified experts). Those who wanted to develop or dump on the water had to prove to a decision-maker that their actions would not harm other people’s abilities to safely swim, drink or fish those same waters. With a few notable exceptions, the federal rules were generally the same across Canada.
This is no longer true. When yet another omnibus budget bill passed through Parliament this week, it ushered in a new era in Canadian history. The Navigable Waters Protection Act no longer protects water. The Fisheries Act no longer protects fish. The Environmental Assessment Act no longer requires environmental assessments be done before important decisions are made. If you are looking to federal environmental law and policy to protect Canada’s environment, you’re a dinosaur. A throwback. A relic of the 20th century.
“No need to worry,” the federal government says, “the provinces will protect you now.”
Just this past Monday, Dec. 3, at the Darlington Nuclear Refurbishment hearing, an official from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans explained that the Canadian government is in the business of protecting fish habitat. But not fish. Fish, he said, are the province’s responsibility. That’s news to anyone who has ever read Canada’s Constitution. Ontario has, from time to time, prosecuted offenders under the Fisheries Act, but Canada still had ultimate authority to protect fish and fish habitat. Until this week, when they said they didn’t want to do it anymore.
It’s alarming, this brave new world we’re in. The provinces can’t pick up the federal government’s slack. In most cases, they don’t have the constitutional authority, the financial resources or the political will to do it.
You’ll have to prove on your own that any act of pollution or development absolutely will interfere with the environment. Of course the only sure way to prove harm is to wait for harm to happen. That means more fish kills, more drinking water advisories and more off-limits waterways. Environmental laws were supposed to prevent harm from ever happening. Now they encourage developers to push the envelope, to see how much they can get away with before citizens push back.
There’s no question that the old way worked better. The Melancthon Megaquarry and Lafarge Alternative Fuels projects, and the Nelson Aggregate/Mount Nemo case show how bad ideas crumble when the burden of proof falls on developers’ shoulders. Would it be “better” if we had to wait for wells to run dry, for fish to die or for the salamander to go extinct before we could be heard?
The truth about this brave new world is that it’s up to us now, to individuals and citizens who care about swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. The omnibus bill and the Darlington Refurbishment hearing made one thing perfectly clear—the Canadian government is no longer in the business of protecting the Canadian environment. Period.
Someday, years from now, when you’re remembering how Canada used to be the “environmental” country and wondering what happened to those days, check your notes. Find today’s date on your calendar, and you’ll know. This is the time when everything changed.
And if, on that day in the future, you can still safely swim, drink and fish in your community, know that it will be because of the actions of dedicated individuals, not government regulators.
Wait! It gets worse
In an article June 13th, 2014, it says that Nova Scotians are likely liable for cleanup at Northern Pulp’s Boat Harbour site. Rumours estimate taxpayers will be on the hook for around 10 million dollars. Other rumours claim Northern Pulp isn’t finished with it yet, so the bill may be much higher. What is really exasperating is trying to get the truth out of the people that should have the answers. Of course, the government is aware that their halo is quite tarnished, but trying to appease the people with what is likely a false document, they issued a press release on May 26, 2015, saying, ” Government Seeks Feedback on Monetary Penalties to Enforce Environment Act.”
I’m sure that will come as great comfort to residents of Pictou and Pictou County, considering Health Canada claims Pictou County residents have the highest rate of Cancer in Nova Scotia. It can’t help but make one wonder why these rules weren’t already in place. Maybe they were.
The Nova Scotia Department of Environment on Facebook posted the link to the press release and a short conversation ensued:
To this comment they responded saying:
“These penalties would be in addition to several tools we already use — such as summary offense tickets, warnings and charges from inspectors and Ministerial Orders from the Minister’s Office. Administrative penalties are a good way for the province to improve its ability to deter and penalize those who harm the environment.”
As indicated in the conversation they are clearly not following the existing monetary penalties as specified in the Act, but if they did decide to… it’s clear that the government will give them, or loan them the money to alleviate any fines.
There have been lots of stories in the media over the last few years about taxpayers being on the hook for environmental cleanup after big corporations have concluded their business in given areas. Other examples include:
- Canadian taxpayers on the hook for Pan Am athletes’ travel costs
- Canada’s anti-ISIS mission in Iraq, Syria to cost $528M in coming year
- Toxic dust buried under Yellowknife’s ‘Giant Mine’ to cost taxpayers $900M
- Nova Scotia taxpayers may be on hook for NAFTA defeat
- Canadian taxpayers on the hook for catastrophic oil spills from Enbridge Northern Gateway
- New Brunswick on hook for $70M in Atcon deal
A recent email received from our MP, Scott Armstrong said, “Although the federal government develops the laws governing pollution, it is the province that administers the various Environmental Acts.” But that’s only half the story. The federal government, in some cases, prevents the provinces from carrying out these duties. Besides the Navigable Waters Protection Act which no longer protects waters, now 99% of Canadian waterways have been stripped of their environmental protections by the federal government as you can see from Maude Barlow’s new report Blue Betrayal. Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch.
In her report she says, “The Harper government has put Canada’s freshwater heritage at great risk and increased the likelihood of water pollution by Canadian mining companies in the Global South. The values of greed driving the Harper government’s policies are not shared by the majority of Canadians who want our waterways protected by strong laws and who view water as an essential public service. It will take political will, given the straightjacket that NAFTA, CETA and other similar trade deals have imposed on future governments, to undo the damage done in this last decade. But in a world running out of accessible water, we have no choice but to fight for the laws and policies that will protect our water for people and the planet forever.”
Krystyn Tully’s article three years ago is just as relevant today, if not more so. Her closing sentence pretty well sums it up as she says, “And if, on that day in the future, you can still safely swim, drink and fish in your community, know that it will be because of the actions of dedicated individuals, not government regulators.”