If anyone still thought that the environmental assessment process was there to ensure that development projects would not destroy the environment and local economies, it's time to wake up and smell the bulldozers' diesel exhaust.
A recent spate of astonishing decisions on a range of mining projects has made it clear that the Federal government has decided that environmental assessment (EA) is a pro forma exercise that will not be allowed to so much as inconvenience mining companies. The only exceptions seem to be where aboriginal groups have a strong enough position to force a thorough assessment, such as the Dene in the Mackenzie Valley.
First Nations, environmental groups, and concerned individuals have repeatedly asked federal authorities and Environment Minister Stéphane Dion to ensure that EA, as a planning tool, supports existing land use planning and helps protect the environment and local economies. Clearly Minister Dion sees no problem. Meanwhile, the courts have been validating the government's cynical approach to environmental assessment.
To make matters worse, the feds have decided to "consolidate" environmental assessment as part of the Martin government's "smart regulations" initiative. By the time they're done "streamlining" the process there may not be much left.