Mayor Gerald Aalbers believes some challenges are in store for the Border City with the passage of Bill C-48 and C-69. The controversial moratorium on Canadian oil tankers along British Columbia’s north coast is set to receive royal assent, and the hotly contested environmental impact assessment overhaul has been granted third reading.
The bills progressed after Ottawa quietly passed a ban on offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic, dubbed Bil C-88. The bills add further doubt to the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion recently approved a second time by the federal government. The Senate passed a record number of amendments, more than 229, to C-69. The House of Commons rejected 130 of those recommendations while accepting 62 amendments and modifying another 37.
Senators carried out months-long studies, interviews and research into the impacts of these two pieces of legislation through a committee, one which Aalbers had the chance to speak in front of. The committee recommended to stop the legislation right there but was rejected by the upper house. Now that the bills seemed destined to become law, Aalbers believes tough times may be in store.
“It is challenging. It’s going to be a challenging time for all of us, and I guess we’ll wait and see,” said Aalbers.
Aalbers says that many amendments proposed to C-69 may have offered a lot of reprieve to major infrastructure projects. Passed as it is, he now fears the bill will impact major municipal projects like the proposed wastewater treatment plant. The City is still waiting on funding approval from the federal government and aims to break ground on the project this year.
The bill, with broad language, requires a review of major infrastructure projects to assess their environmental impact. As an $80 million wastewater treatment facility, Aalbers sees the project as a major infrastructure project. He hopes the project will be considered under the old regulations it was applied for but feels a lot of uncertainty.
“There’s a lot of cloudiness and distortion right now. Until that’s cleared up, I guess we’re not sure where we’re going. But until we receive funding, we won’t be going anywhere. There are more questions than answers here today.”
Aalbers has thrown his support behind many leaders part of the Coalition of Canadian Municipalities for Energy Action. The band of municipal leaders across the prairies has focused their attention and advocacy towards stopping the bills and advocating for Canadian energy. He and other municipal leaders have advocated across provincial boundaries for the energy sector, clearing up misconceptions and sharing what it’s like to live with pipelines every day.
From the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference to before the Senate committee, Aalbers has taken it upon himself to advocate for the community’s interests. He hopes to create change on a municipal level across Canada and believes many misconceptions can be cleared this way. Aalbers encourages others to do the same in a respectful and civil way.
“If you have friends and relatives, don’t engage in an argument. Engage in an information discussion where you can provide facts and information to help clarify some of the misconceptions that exist in the rest of Canada about what we do, how we do it and all the pieces to it. It’s easy to say we’ll cut off transfer payments; I know that discussion has been had at various levels, but we are a great nation, and if we can build the nation together it will go a lot farther than trying to build walls.”
Aalbers adds that a federal election is on the horizon this fall, and believes many will voice their opinions about the national direction come then.