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Meeting in Winnipeg of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME)

"Ottawa must respect Québec's environment responsibilities," Minister André Boisclair declares

Québec, April 26, 2001 – A few days from the April 30 and May 1 meeting in Winnipeg of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), the Minister of the Environment, André Boisclair, points out Québec's concerns over the latest legislative initiatives of the federal government. If they are ratified by the House of Commons and the Senate these initiatives will result in serious overlap of Québec's jurisdiction in environmental matters.

Firstly, there is Bill C-19 amending the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Under section 24, the Minister of the Environment of Canada would be granted considerable discretionary powers enabling him to subject any project to the federal environmental assessment process if the project, in his opinion, has severe impacts on the environment. "The federal process would duplicate the Québec impact assessment procedure, which is mainly overseen by Québec's environment hearing board, the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE). This regulatory overbidding hinders environmental protection as much as it does investment in Québec," Mr. Boisclair argued.

Secondly, Bill C-6 on international boundary waters introduces a regime of federal permits for the construction of dams or the diversion of watercourses within the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes catchment basins. This regime includes watercourses downstream from these catchment basins whose geographic delimitation will be dertermined by way of federal regulations. To Mr. Boisclair, "Bill C-6 infringes on Québec's authority over the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries. It duplicates the Water Resources Conservation Act adopted by unanimous consent by the Québec National Assembly on November 24, 1999. Clearly, the response of the Government of Québec met the wish of every Quebecker. Already, we have prohibited the transfer outside Québec of the surface and groundwaters collected in Québec."

Thirdly, about Bill C-10 on marine protected areas as well as private bill S-18 on safe drinking water, Minister Boisclair specified that, as agreed, Québec will soon adopt a new regulation respecting drinking water. However, he is willing to cooperate on this issue provided the actions proposed by Canada take into consideration the respective constitutional responsibilites of both governments.

With Bill C-5 respecting endangered species, the federal government will be invading the wildlife protection field. The resulting overlap in an area under Québec's jurisdiction pursuant to its Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species has led Mr. Boisclair to denounce the federal's intentions, as did his predecessors and colleague responsible for Wildlife and Parks.

"All of these bills lead to increased federal intrusion that is totally disrespectful of Québec's responsibilities in the areas of environmental impact assessment, water management and wildlife protection. They result in addition in costly and upsetting administrative overlaps," Mr. Boisclair declared.

Lastly, the Minister asserted, "At the Winnipeg meeting, I plan on inviting my federal counterpart to redo his homework that his legislative initiatives truly respect Québec's environment responsibilities."

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Sylvia Provost
Press Attaché
Office of the Minister
Tel.: (418) 521-3911

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