PRESS RELEASE: SES opposes Bill 88, The Saskatchewan First Act
Saskatchewan Environmental Society
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
For immediate release
The Saskatchewan First Act is bad news for the environment, the economy, and Saskatchewan’s energy future
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) opposes Bill 88, The Saskatchewan First Act, which was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan in November 2022. This legislation poses serious legal, environmental, ethical, and economic ramifications.
Of most immediate concern is the section of the Saskatchewan First Act that states the regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Saskatchewan’s oil & gas, forestry, electricity generation, and non-renewable natural resource sectors would now fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Government of Saskatchewan. If passed into law, Bill 88 could be used by the Saskatchewan government to try to block the implementation of several important federal government initiatives aimed at reducing GHG pollution. This is bad news for the environment, the economy, and our province’s energy future.
Until now, environmental regulation in the aforementioned sectors of the Saskatchewan economy has been a matter of shared jurisdiction between the Government of Canada and the provincial government, with the federal government often leading the way on more ambitious environmental protections. Over the past several years, Saskatchewan’s government has opposed a wide range of federal GHG reduction policies, despite the fact these are modest when compared with many parts of the industrialized world. The Saskatchewan First Act is an attempt to block the implementation of some of these federal policies, thereby setting the stage for weaker GHG emissions regulation in Saskatchewan, when compared to the rest of Canada.
Although the Saskatchewan government claims that enacting The Saskatchewan First Act will benefit our economy, SES is of the view that the more likely outcome will be to undermine investor confidence in Saskatchewan. There will be enormous uncertainty regarding the future of GHG emission reduction policies in Saskatchewan, and whether federal or provincial regulations will apply.
To make matters worse, Saskatchewan’s GHG pollution levels are already triple the Canadian average for our population size. Further delays by the Saskatchewan government in implementing pollution reduction measures are ill advised. Underlying the threat posed by these pollutants, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called the high concentration of GHGs in Earth’s atmosphere a ‘code red for humanity.’
Peter Prebble, SES board member, said that “in pursuing Bill 88, the Saskatchewan government is ignoring the warnings of the UN Secretary General and the scientific community on the urgency of reducing GHG emissions. It is also ignoring previous rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada on the right of the Government of Canada to regulate GHG pollution at source. The negative impacts of Saskatchewan’s GHGG emissions primarily affect people and ecosystems far beyond the reach of our provincial borders and pose irreversible hazards to future generations. That is why regulating them cannot be left to Saskatchewan’s government alone. The Government of Canada’s involvement is essential.”
“Saskatchewan has world class solar and wind resources that we should be developing with more ambition. As the world transitions from fossil fuels to a low carbon future, Saskatchewan can deliver with our clean energy potential,” says Bob Halliday, SES Vice President. “However, once again, federal-provincial cooperation is essential. For example, cooperating with other provinces and the federal government to greatly expand interprovincial electrical transmission capacity is imperative to building a clean energy future.”
“SES calls on all governments in Canada to work in the spirit of cooperation to enact policies that reduce GHG emissions in a carefully planned manner that promotes stability. Enacting The Saskatchewan First Act does the opposite of its purpose, undermining investor confidence in Saskatchewan, by creating uncertainty in our GHG emissions policies and whether federal or provincial regulations will apply. This in turn will create uncertainty in our economy, and uncertainty in our energy future,” says Glenn Wright, SES board member. “We ask the provincial government to delete all references in the Act to the regulation of GHG emissions, and we urge the Saskatchewan government to cooperate with the federal government to achieve Canada’s commitment to reduce nationwide GHG emissions at least 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.”
Three factsheets are appended below. To read the entire letter that SES sent to the provincial government, visit: bit.ly/Bill88Response