When federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver first launched his assault on the core elements of Canada’s environmental legislative regime in a January 2012 open letter, everyone knew he was talking about clearing a path for Enbridge proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.
What wasn’t as obvious, however, is how hard Enbridge has been lobbying behind the scenes to help change environmental laws so it is easier to get tar sands projects and pipelines approved.
Media reports suggest that the federal government will take include an unprecedented gutting of the Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act and possibly the Species at Risk Act in next week's federal budget. A leaked copy of changes to the Fisheries Act were so alarming that over 600 scientists wrote to the federal government opposing them, along with former Conservative fisheries ministers.
So it is interesting to note that according to Enbridge’s official filing with the federal lobbyist registry, they have been advocating for “regulatory streamlining - seeking improved efficiencies in the government secondary permitting processes for Department of Fisheries and Oceans Permits and Transport Canada permits for pipeline construction, seeking improved efficiencies in the environmental assessment processes.”
This lobbying reached a fever pitch in 2011, as the controversy over tar sands pipelines began to heat up in Canada and the US.
According to the lobbyist registry – which only captures a portion of actual lobbying – they met 25 times with senior officials from Prime Minister’s Office, Privy Council Office, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and the Finance Department over the last 3 years, with 16 of those meetings in 2011. Similarly, they met 30 times with Members of Parliament and Senators over the last three years, with 25 of those meetings taking place in 2011.
I'd be willing to bet that the entire environmental movement combined hasn't even come close to having this kind of access to the PMO and top decision-makers at the federal level.
What limited information you can get off the lobbyist registry is compiled here. Greenpeace will pursue the documentation from those meetings using Access to Information legislation, although we probably won’t get much that hasn’t been blacked out and even then only after many months.
But here is a Word Cloud based on the subject matters they said they were lobbying on, which pretty much mirrors the hot button issues in the debate over their proposed pipeline: