09 February 2009

5 years and counting: still no sustainable development act

A 2003 Provincial Conservative election promise  - to ensure that economic development and the environment were in sync  - remains unfilled five years after the Provincial Conservatives took power and two years after the law was passed by the province’s legislature.

The province’s Sustainable Development Act, passed by the legislature in early 2007, has not been proclaimed and is therefore not law.

In the meantime, the provincial government’s energy corporation is proceeding with development of the Lower Churchill, including a plan to sling high-voltage power lines through a UNESCO World Heritage site.

That certainly wouldn’t be the popular impression since then-environment minister Clyde Jackman issued a news release in June 2007 that made it sound like the Act was in place:

The sustainable management of the province’s natural resources is now enshrined in the Sustainable Development Act that was passed in the current session of the House of Assembly. Sustainable development will ensure the province’s renewable and non-renewable resources are developed to maximize benefits for the province, while protecting the natural environment so that future generations have the ability to meet their own needs.

The release said more than half a million dollars had been set aside in 2007 to establish the advisory committee that is at the heart of the act.  No legislation, though meant no committee.

The unproclaimed act featured prominently in the Provincial Conservative Party’s 2007 election campaign platform.  The second blue print also made it sound as though the act was in force and work was underway:

Through our new Sustainable Development Act, we will ensure that development proceeds in harmony with our natural environment, securing our greatest natural strengths while promoting eco-friendly enterprise.

  • enforce the provisions of the Sustainable Development Act regarding the responsible and sustainable development of our natural environment, ensuring that our resource development decisions address the full range of environmental, social and economic values and that workers, environmentalists, industry, communities, aboriginal peoples and others have a say in how our resources are managed. [Emphasis in original]

Without the sustainability act in place, there can be no enforcement of its provisions.

Without the act, there is also no Strategic Environmental Management Plan, even though the provincial government committed to have one in place by 2009.

The SEMP was supposed to be the document that put the commitment to environmentally sustainable economic development into action.