Bill 49 on oil exploration in the Gulf

  • Published on Jun 11 2015 |
  • This article is tagged as: marins, societe |

Québec is giving up its environmental responsibilities in favour of Ottawa

The St - Lawrence Coalition is voicing its opinion against this new step towards an oil state

Montréal, June 11, 2015 – After more than four years of negotiations with the federal government, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pierre Arcand, today tabled “mirror” Bill 49 on oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the National Assembly of Québec. A similar “mirror” bill will likely be tabled shortly in the federal parliament. Once adopted, these two bills will open the doors to oil exploration in the Québec portion of the Gulf.

The St - Lawrence Coalition has voiced its opinion against this new step leading to the transformation of Québec into an oil state. Following oil drilling in Anticosti and Gaspé, the oil pipeline projects or highways, and hydraulic fracturing projects in the St. Lawrence Valley, attempts are now being made to remove the last obstacles to offshore drilling in the Gulf.

Significant gaps

This "mirror" legislation introduced by the Québec Minister of Natural Resources is modeled on similar legislation shortly to be filed by the federal government in Ottawa. The St - Lawrence Coalition has long advocated for Quebec to integrate the "highest standards" without submitting to federal standards, which are consistently revised downwards. A first reading of the bill however, shows that this is not so and that Quebec is abdicating its environmental responsibilities to Ottawa:

  • Environmental assessments will be framed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, a law that was literally butchered by the Conservative government two years ago, and the Environment Quality Act which, to this day, remains silent regarding offshore operations
  • The automatic financial liability of companies for spills is limited to $1 billion, while Norway, Denmark and Iceland do not impose any ceiling regarding the financial responsibility
  • The use of chemical dispersants will now be easier in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It should be noted that the toxicity of the combination of oil/chemical dispersants was amply demonstrated in the Gulf of Mexico
  • All decisions relating to petroleum activities in the Québec portion of the Gulf will be made jointly with a federal agency, the National Energy Board (NEB). How can we ensure that these decisions will always be in the best interests of Quebec?

A premature draft law

The St - Lawrence Coalition is also deeply concerned at the willingness of the Minister to table this "mirror" bill while the strategic environmental assessment of the hydrocarbon industry in Québec has not been completed and will only make its recommendations at the end 2015.

“It is somewhat incongruous to announce hydrocarbon development conditions in the Gulf through this "mirror" legislation, while the ESA on the sector of hydrocarbons is still not complete,” stated Christian Simard, Director General of Nature Québec.

For broader public consultation

There are major issues concerning this bill, which opens the Gulf to oil exploration. The St - Lawrence Coalition therefore asks that the parliamentary committee overseeing the bill includes a wider consultation, allowing all citizens and organizations the opportunity to express themselves freely.

“The population of the Magdalen Islands, the first to be affected by these drilling projects right at their door, has long been asking to be consulted during the preparation of the draft “mirror” law, which has not happened,” commented Danielle Giroux, President of Attention FragÎles

Towards an extended moratorium for the whole Gulf

“The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a fragile, unique ecosystem, shared by five coastal provinces. Any unilateral decision by a province to drill in the Gulf may have a negative impact on all of its neighbours. Instead of paving the way for oil exploration, Québec should assume leadership in the Gulf and work together with the other coastal provinces to establish a general moratorium on oil activities in the entire Gulf, as well as holding an extensive public review,” concluded Sylvain Archambault, spokesperson for the St - Lawrence Coalition.

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The St - Lawrence Coalition is made up of members of the First Nations and non-natives, from 85 organizations and associations, and more than 5,000 individuals from various economic sectors and from the five coastal provinces of the Gulf.  Members of the Coalition are calling for a moratorium on the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the whole of the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Source :

Sylvain Archambault
Spokesperson for the St - Lawrence Coalition
c : 581 995-4350

Christian Simard
Director General of Nature Québec
c : 418 928-1150

Danielle Giroux
President, Attention FragÎles
c : 819 943-4042