Canada’s Conservative government will announce new measures this week to streamline environmental approvals for resource projects to fuel investments, Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver said.
Oliver, in a speech yesterday in Toronto, said the government plans steps to focus assessments on major projects, reduce duplication and expedite reviews. The measures will be announced in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s March 29 fiscal plan, he said.
“We need to untangle our outdated and complex web of rules and regulations for environmental assessments,” Oliver said, according to a prepared copy of the speech provided to reporters. “We need to attract capital to develop our natural resources and build up our infrastructure.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed to speed the regulatory review process for projects such as pipelines, as the country seeks to build oil-exporting capacity after President Barack Obama in January denied TransCanada Corp. (TRP) a permit for its Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S.
Speaking to a parliamentary committee today, Oliver said the changes will be announced in Flaherty’s budget before being presented to the House of Commons in a bill at a later date.
“There will be a high-level discussion” of the review process in the fiscal plan and then “there will be a detailed explanation when the legislation is brought forward,” Oliver said.
Harper has said diversifying Canada’s energy exports is a “national priority” as it will reduce reliance on the U.S. and help Canadian producers generate higher prices by easing a glut of oil in storage facilities around Cushing, Oklahoma. Canada sits on the world’s third-largest pool of oil reserves and Harper last month led a delegation of more than 40 business executives and five ministers to deepen energy links with China.
Oliver also said the government would try to ensure environmental assessments have “defined timelines that are enforceable” and that “provide adequate time for consultation and for scientific review.”
“The system should not take years and years” to complete a review, he said.
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