June 12, 2019 / 4:22 PM / 8 days ago

Canadian government rejects most Senate amendments to major projects bill

CALGARY, Alberta/MONTREAL, June 12 (Reuters) - Canada’s Liberal government has rejected most of the amendments proposed by senators to a bill that will overhaul how major projects like pipelines are assessed, a move criticized by Canada’s main crude-producing province, Alberta.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced Bill C-69 to fulfill a 2015 election pledge to streamline and restore trust in Canada’s environmental approval process for major projects.

The legislation in its original form was fiercely opposed by the oil industry and the Alberta government, which argued it would deter investment and kill new projects. Last week a Senate committee voted to approve the legislation, but with 187 amendments.

In a motion posted overnight on Tuesday, the government said it would accept 62 of those amendments, most of which were proposed by independent senators. It will modify another 37.

Nearly all the amendments proposed by Conservative senators were rejected and Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi said they would have weakened the bill.

“We will accept amendments that will allow good projects to move forward, at the same time protecting the environment and including Canadians in the process,” Sohi told reporters.

The Liberal-controlled House of Commons will debate Bill C-69 later on Wednesday before voting on whether to approve the revisions. The legislation will then return to the Senate.

Alberta’s conservative Premier Jason Kenney criticized the government’s decision to accept only a third of the amendments. Last week he urged the government to pass the bill with all 187 Senate recommendations.

“We will make one last appeal to the federal government to listen to employers, to many First Nations, to provincial and territorial governments, and to the Senate of Canada in adopting those constructive amendments,” Kenney told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Montreal.

Some environmental groups praised the government’s motion for preserving many of the safeguards promised by Trudeau in the 2015 election.

“The Senate amendments would have gutted Bill C-69,” said Anna Johnston, staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association. “This bill is about protecting Canadians, and the environment they depend on, against the consequences of short-term thinking.”

Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler

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