November 4, 2021
On Monday, East Coast Environmental Law staff lawyer Tina Northrup presented to Nova Scotia's Law Amendments Committee on Bill 57, the proposed Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act ("EGCCRA").
Presentations to the Law Amendments Committee are an important part of Nova Scotia's legislative process, giving individuals, businesses, community groups, and organizations the opportunity to share their feedback on proposed laws, and giving members of the legislature an opportunity to hear from Nova Scotians.
Our oral presentation to the Law Amendments Committee highlighted five priority recommended amendments that we discussed in a lengthy written submission that we gave to the Committee, including:
- our recommendation to amend the greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2030 to 58% below 2005 levels;
- our recommendation to include additional goals to end oil and gas exploration and development in offshore Nova Scotia; and,
- our recommendation to expand section 12 of the bill to better equip EGCCRA to address and prevent environmental racism in Nova Scotia—including by requiring etuaptmumk (two-eyed seeing), netukulimk, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be considered in the progressive reform of environmental assessment and other environmental decision-making processes in Nova Scotia, along with broader principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
After hearing roughly eight hours of presentations from Nova Scotians—most of whom were glad to see Bill 57 tabled but felt that it should be stronger—the Law Amendments Committee agreed to return Bill 57 to the House of Assembly without any recommended amendments. The next day, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change told media that the government would not be making any amendments to the bill, although the feedback shared at Law Amendments would inform the Climate Change Plan for Clean Growth that the government intends to release next spring.
Last night, Bill 57 was considered by the Committee of the Whole House. MLAs from the Liberal and NDP parties proposed several amendments to the bill, most of them drawn directly—some verbatim—from suggestions made by Nova Scotians during the Law Amendments Committee proceeding. Two amendments were accepted, both of them strengthening the equity objectives of the bill. One of those amendments adds a significant new goal that signals the government's intent to create a panel to address environmental racism in Nova Scotia.
It is clear that many Nova Scotians who participated in the Law Amendments process were disappointed by the Committee's swift decision to return Bill 57 to the House without amendments and were also disappointed by the Minister's public statements that the bill would proceed as proposed. As the Committee of the Whole House debated the bill last night, a rally outside Province House chanted calls for the bill to be strengthened. MLAs inside the House picked up on and spoke to the public's disappointment, urging the government to take a more collaborative approach and suggesting as well that the Law Amendment Committee's process should be used in a way that better serves its purpose.
Last night's discussion by the Committee of the Whole House ended with all members present voting for Bill 57 to proceed to third reading as amended, at which point it will likely pass quickly.
Although East Coast Environmental Law believes that Bill 57 could have been strengthened more than it was, the addition of the new goal addressing environmental racism in Nova Scotia is very important, and we are encouraged to see that goal being added to the bill.
As we continue to observe Bill 57's progress through the legislative process, we hope that the meaningful conversations we witnessed this week will continue beyond the passage of the bill and will shape our collective actions moving forward.
You can read our full written submission to the Law Amendments Committee here and watch the video recording of our in-person presentation here (beginning at roughly 24:15 minutes in).