The Harper government unveiled a massive omnibus budget-implementation bill Thursday that includes Fisheries Act amendments that would strip the term “habitat” from the most crucial section of the law.
The intent, says a spokeswoman, is to help “everyday Canadians” in dealings with federal fisheries bureaucrats.
Allegations that the government is giving in to demands from energy and mining lobbyists are false, the official said.
“These are changes being made in our department that are designed to help Canadians — everyday Canadians: landowners, municipalities, farmers – be able to undertake activities on their properties without obtrusive interference by our department,” said Erin Filliter, spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.
But opposition critics and environmental groups say the government is misleading the public about what they say is the bill’s move to appease the natural resource sector.
“The legal protection for fish habitat has been completely eliminated,” said Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior lawyer for West Coast Environmental Law.