Companies should help cover cost of environmental reviews: MP

A recent court action by the Tlicho government delays the federal government's ability to create rules allowing for companies to be charged for part of the cost of environmental reviews.

Tlicho injunction delays federal government's ability to charge companies for costs

Northwest Territories MP Dennis Bevington says how much companies contribute to help pay the cost of environmental reviews needs to undergo thorough review. (CBC)

A recent injunction won by the Tlicho Government doesn't just delay the federal government's launch of a Northwest Territories land and water superboard. 

It also puts another government plan on ice: creating new rules allowing for mining companies to be charged for a portion of the cost of the environmental reviews the companies go through. 

Both changes to the regulatory system were contained in last year's sweeping N.W.T. devolution bill but weren't scheduled to take effect until April 1 of this year.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, says the federal government has shared "no detail" with the chamber of mines about what circumstances would prompt it to charge companies, but says his group has already opposed the idea. 

"We're already operating on a very unlevel playing field," he says. "Adding cost recovery just makes that unlevel playing field even more unlevel."

But Dennis Bevington, the NDP Member of Parliament for the N.W.T., thinks companies should chip in. Bevington says companies benefit financially from getting their projects successfully pushed through the regulatory system. 

"When you go through the environmental assessment process, because you have determined that it is a valuable property that is worthwhile, you actually increase the value of the property," he says. "So if you increase the value of the property, I think there should be some consideration about covering some of those costs."

How much companies pay is another question, Bevington says.

"I think that's something that would have to go through a fairly rigorous consultation with industry first before we come to that kind of price schedule."

For Hoefer, any delay on a cost-recovery program is welcome. He says the higher cost of mining and exploration in the North compared to the south — due to a lack of infrastructure — is enough of a barrier to potential investment. 

His comments come as spending on mineral exploration and deposit appraisal spending is estimated to go down sharply in 2015.

"In a climate where we're trying to attract investment, the last thing you want is a more unlevel playing field," he says.

The Tlicho injunction also delays the federal government's ability to create regulations for consulting aboriginal groups about proposed projects in the N.W.T.'s Mackenzie Valley.

How long the injunction stays in place depends on the timing and outcome of the Tlicho government's Supreme Court case against the superboard.  


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