Energy minister Ken Hughes intends to amend Bill 2 with six words citing public confusion

Energy minister intends to amend Bill 2 with six words citing public confusion by Darcy Henton, November 6, 2012, Calgary Herald
Citing public confusion over his controversial one-stop shopping energy resource regulation bill, Energy Minister Ken Hughes announced his intention Tuesday to make 14 changes to the legislation he introduced just two weeks ago. “We were focused on what Albertans were telling us,” Hughes told the legislature. “We were listening to Albertans who were reading the bill — Bill 2. They were seeking to understand it.” Many of the changes involved making it clear that notifications of energy developments would be public and that reviews of decisions by the regulator would be called ‘appeals’, rather than ‘reviews’ in the language of the bill, Hughes said. But the surprise introduction of the amendments outraged opposition members. Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson called the move “a cheap parlour trick.” “This is not how you run a democracy. This is not how you run a House. This is a joke,” he told the legislature. “This is a freaking disaster and it’s absolutely shameful.”

NDP MLA Rachel Notley called it a “ridiculously oppressive move” for the governing Conservatives to want to begin debate on so many amendments without first sharing them with the opposition or giving notice of them. But she said the fact the government is making so many changes to the bill so soon after introducing it is a sign Bill 2, which combines six conservation statutes, is “very poorly thought out.” “This demonstrates a tremendous level of incompetence,” she said in an interview. The NDP have said they have prepared eight amendments to the bill; the Wildrose have 12. “Ultimately this bill is about making things faster and easier for the oil and gas industry and jeopardizing the rights of the public, in terms of people concerned about the environment, and landowners,” Notley said.

Hughes expressed surprise at the opposition reaction to his amendments. “Listening to my colleagues today, you would think we made substantial changes to the Magna Carta,” he quipped. Hughes said the amendments involve changes to six words in the bill. “With these six words we’re actually trying to create greater clarity,” he said. Opposition members called for debate on the bill to be adjourned to give them time to study the government amendments and recraft their own. After listening to their concerns about the process, governing Tories voted with them to adjourn the debate. Opposition critics, environmentalists and academics have suggested landowners are losing rights in the new bill and the environment and the public interest is not protected as it was in the original six statutes. Bill 2 has been described as a “Franken-bill” and a “train wreck” and critics suggest it could spark a groundswell of protest across the province similar to that generated by three earlier land use bills that the PC government eventually amended to address concerns. [Emphasis added]

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