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Overview

In this section:

Minister's Message

I am pleased to present the Performance Report of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for the period ending March 31, 2007. This report outlines the Agency's key accomplishments for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

The Agency's overall mandate is to support high-quality environmental assessments that contribute to informed decision making. During this reporting period, the Agency's priorities were improving integration of the environmental assessment process; assuming a more active leadership role in federal environmental assessment; and building capacity to deliver on its responsibilities.

The Agency operates in an increasingly complex environment. Environmental assessment must continually adapt to emerging trends, new scientific methods and insights, and evolving public expectations. During 2006-2007, the Agency focused its efforts on activities that contribute to more effective, efficient environmental assessments and better coordination of activities within the federal government and with other jurisdictions.

The federal environmental assessment process plays an important role in safeguarding our environment while allowing for a strong and growing Canadian economy. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will continue to provide leadership to improve this process and support informed decision making.

It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to submit the 2006-2007 Performance Report for the Agency.

 

_____________________________________________

John Baird, P.C., M.P.

Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for the
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

 

Management Representation Statement

I submit for tabling in Parliament, the 2006-2007 Departmental Performance Report for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

This document has been prepared based on the reporting principles contained in the Guide for the Preparation of Part III of the 2006-2007 Estimates: Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports.

  • It adheres to the specific reporting requirements outlined in the Treasury Board Secretariat guidance.
  • It is based on the Department's Strategic Outcome and Program Activity Architecture that were approved by the Treasury Board.
  • It presents consistent, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information.
  • It provides a basis of accountability for the results achieved with the resources and authorities entrusted to it.
  • It reports finances based on approved numbers from the Estimates and the Public Accounts of Canada.

 

______________________________

Jean-Claude Bouchard

President

 

Summary Information

Reason for Existence

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) provides leadership and serves as the centre of expertise for the federal environmental assessment process. The Agency's mandate is to provide Canadians with high-quality environmental assessments that contribute to informed decision making in support of sustainable development.

A strategic outcome defines the work of the Agency: "Environmental assessment is an integral part of program and policy decision making." The Agency's program activity is "efficient and effective environmental assessment." This work is achieved through three key programs: coordination and cooperation, guidance and operation, and continuous improvement.

Led by the President, who reports directly to the Minister of the Environment, the Agency delivers its mandate within the framework of the following instruments:

  • the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the Act) and its accompanying regulations;
  • the Canada-Wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization and bilateral agreements with provincial governments that establish arrangements for cooperative environmental assessments; and
  • international agreements containing environmental assessment provisions to which Canada is a party, principally the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

The Agency also assists the Minister of the Environment in implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals by providing guidance to federal authorities on environmental assessment considerations and requirements with respect to proposed policies, plans and programs. Moreover, the Cabinet Directive on Implementing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act reinforces the key facilitation role of the Agency in the administration of the Act and in encouraging the application of federal environmental assessments in a manner that supports the timely, predictable and efficient preparation of high-quality environmental assessments.

The President of the Agency has been designated by order-in-council as the federal administrator of the environmental and social protection regimes set out in chapters 22 and 23 of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Financial Resources ($000s)


Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending
18,033 19,525 18,372

Human Resources


Planned Total Authorities Actual
149 148 148

Status on Performance


Strategic Outcome

Environmental assessment is an integral part of program and policy decision making.

Program Activity

Efficient and effective environmental assessment.

Expected Results

Environmental assessment:
  • Processes are well coordinated across the federal government and with other jurisdictions;
  • Expertise and operational capacity is maintained and enhanced, and the role of stakeholders and decision makers is supported; and
  • Practices are improved, and increasingly effective mitigation measures are implemented.
Priority Type Performance Status Planned Spending ($000s) Actual Spending ($000s)
No. 1

Build a framework for more integrated environmental assessments.

New Ongoing 4,508 4,593
No. 2

Assume a more active leadership role in federal environmental assessment.

New Met 9,017 9,186
No. 3

Build the capacity to deliver on existing and new responsibilities.

Ongoing Partially Met 4,508 4,593
    Total 18,033 18,372

Note: 2006-2007 is a transition year to implementation of the November 2005 Cabinet Directive on Implementing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Priority No. 1: Build a framework for more integrated environmental assessments

Since its introduction in the early 1970s, the federal environmental assessment process has evolved in response to continuous changes in policy, law and increasing public expectations that the environment will be considered when the Government of Canada makes decisions. An ongoing challenge has been to ensure that federal environmental assessments are well integrated with other federal regulatory requirements as well as provincial reviews of proposed projects. Successful integration can reduce costly delays for proponents and improve the quality and effectiveness of environmental assessments.

Throughout the past year, the Agency worked on measures to improve integration within the context of the current legislative framework. For example, delays sometimes occur when several departments responsible for the assessment of the same project struggle with the question of what components of a project should be assessed. To facilitate these "scoping" decisions, the Agency developed the Interim Approach for Determining Scope of Project for Major Development Proposals with Specific Regulatory Triggers under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Agency has also worked with Natural Resources Canada and other federal authorities on the creation of the Major Projects Management Office and other measures to improve the overall environmental regulatory system for major resource projects (e.g., large metal mines).

Provinces and territories are important partners in environmental assessment. Bilateral agreements and project-specific arrangements prevent duplication by allowing a single environmental assessment to meet the legal requirements of both jurisdictions. To build on these arrangements, the Agency, along with its counterparts in Manitoba and British Columbia, is leading an initiative of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to identify options for improving the timeliness and predictability of the delivery of environmental assessment.

Over the longer term, this priority may result in new or revised legislation. To this end, the Agency initiated discussions with the Minister of the Environment's multi-stakeholder Regulatory Advisory Committee on issues, such as the adequacy of the current self-assessment approach. The results of these discussions and the ongoing Quality Assurance Program will help to ensure that the Agency is well positioned to support the 2010 review of the Act by Parliamentary Committee.

Priority No. 2: Assume a more active leadership role in federal environmental assessment

In early 2006, the Agency focused its work on the activities that have maximum influence on effective and efficient environmental assessment. This was done through an action plan based on the aforementioned three priorities. Through the action plan, the majority of the Agency's efforts centred on coordinating federal environmental assessment of projects on a priority basis, based on the significance of their potential environmental effects and level of public concern.

One focus of the Agency's efforts has been the need for coordination of federal government departments in the context of Aboriginal consultation. The Agency has developed an internal policy that sets out the conditions which must be met for the Agency to take on this coordination role.

The Agency formed and chairs an interdepartmental committee that established the Environmental Assessment Recruitment and Development Program. The goal is to address the workforce shortage of environmental assessment practitioners by recruiting and training post-secondary graduates. The Agency recognizes the need for specialized knowledge and skills, and the requirement for trained and experienced staff to deliver its own leadership role in ensuring high-quality environmental assessments.

In support of the Cabinet Directive on Implementing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Assessment Projects Committee introduced the Interim Approach for Determining Scope of Project for Major Development Proposals with Specific Regulatory Triggers under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in December 2006. The Interim Approach provides guidance for a specific category of development proposals. It aims at fostering consistency and timeliness in decision making regarding the scope of project that, historically, has tended to be difficult and time consuming. The Interim Approach includes structured processes for identifying components of a development proposal for inclusion in the project scope, obtaining the information required to support federal environmental assessment decisions, and ensuring implementation of mitigation measures and follow-up programs.

To ensure that the Interim Approach was well understood and implemented, the Agency hosted a national workshop on December 13, 2006 for representatives from the key federal departments that conduct environmental assessments. The Agency then conducted similar workshops across the country to ensure that regional staff members in key departments were provided with the same understanding of the Interim Approach.

In pursuit of the goal of assuming a more active leadership role in federal environmental assessment, the Agency undertook a pilot project in the evaluation of the Galore Creek Mine comprehensive study in British Columbia (Galore Pilot). For this pilot, the Agency took on an enhanced leadership role by, for example, developing process documents and facilitating public and First Nations participation during the environmental assessment. The comprehensive study report of the Galore Pilot was completed on January 23, 2007. Currently, the Agency is leading negotiations on behalf of the Government of Canada with the proponent on a follow-up program to verify the accuracy of the environmental assessment and determine the effectiveness of mitigation measures. The Agency envisages this level of involvement as its role in the future for major natural resource development proposals.

Priority No. 3: Build the capacity to deliver on existing and new responsibilities

To move ahead on the first two priorities while meeting existing responsibilities for coordination, guidance and support for environmental assessments, the Agency has worked actively to develop its internal capacity and manage its talent. In keeping with its Human Resources Plan, this means supporting current staff through learning and career development. It also means recruiting and integrating new people with needed skills into the Agency.

With the implementation of the Public Service Modernization Act (PSMA) — a far-reaching renewal of Government of Canada human resources management — the Agency created new internal policies. Implementing these policies enabled the Agency to make effective and efficient staffing decisions and take advantage of the flexibilities available under the new regime.

The Agency invested in building a sustainable workforce by improving skills and knowledge, which increases capacity among existing employees and supports retention and recruitment of new employees. Despite its relatively small size, the Agency delivered two orientation sessions in 2006-2007 to integrate new employees into the organization. The new Treasury Board Policy on Learning, Training and Development was also successfully implemented to support employees, managers and the Agency as a whole. The Agency recognizes that learning and career development are valuable incentives and that commitment and productivity are enhanced when employee and Agency objectives are aligned. The Agency worked to achieve this alignment through the implementation of Human Resources Plan elements including an effective performance management program, personal learning plans, mentoring, succession planning and knowledge transfer. As a result of its efforts to retain a skilled workforce, the overall staff turnover rate at the Agency decreased by 2.4 percent from the previous reporting period.

The Agency recruited three executives to its leadership team during the 2006-2007 fiscal year. Candidates were assessed against the Leadership Competencies as developed by the Canada Public Service Agency. Through these recruitment efforts, the Agency increased the representation of women in the executive group, addressing an employment equity gap identified in its Human Resources Plan.

The Environmental Assessment Recruitment and Development Program, established during this reporting period, created a pool of 30 candidates, 11 of whom were appointed to positions. This initiative contributed to building overall capacity among federal government departments responsible for environmental assessment.

The Agency's culture of bilingualism is well established and it has a proven record of support to individuals who must meet the linguistic requirements of their jobs. It boasts one of the most comprehensive second language support programs to be found in any small agency. Specifically, the Agency's objectives are to actively promote and support official languages, provide internal language training to staff and give special attention to the inclusion of language training in individual learning plans. A pilot project provided many staff members with access to a full-time language teacher for a three month period, allowing them to meet the requirements of their positions or improve their language skills while remaining involved in their jobs. As well, an Official Languages Framework was developed and approved to identify and promote official languages support to staff in two categories: statutory requirements, and second language maintenance and improvement. Employees enjoy a comprehensive list of options on the Agency's Intranet site as well as the support of Human Resources Advisors and an Official Languages Champion and Co-Champion.

The Agency continues to invest in building the capacity to deliver on its priorities and develop and maintain a skilled workforce. The efforts made in 2006-2007 form a solid foundation to meet existing and new responsibilities going forward.

 

Agency Operating Environment and Challenges

Protecting the environment, while building a strong economy and improving the quality of life for Canadians, is a daily challenge. Environmental assessment responds to this challenge by ensuring that environmental effects are considered before decisions are taken that allow projects to proceed.

Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the Act), federal departments and agencies must undertake an environmental assessment (EA) before they carry out a project; provide financial assistance to enable a project to be carried out; sell, lease or otherwise transfer control or administration of land to enable a project to be undertaken; or issue certain permits or authorizations to enable a project to go forward. Historically, each year between 6,000 and 7,000 environmental assessments are initiated under the Act. In June 2006, lending Crown corporations also came under the requirements of the Act, which added 1,950 screenings during the reporting period. Since 1995 (the year the Act came into effect), over 70,000 projects have been assessed.

Projects subject to environmental assessment or policies subject to strategic environmental assessment often raise important issues associated with socio-economic development, environmental protection, Aboriginal interests and federal-provincial/territorial relations. Environmental assessment must continually adapt to emerging trends, new scientific methods and insights, and evolving public expectations.

The following provides a sense of the issues and challenges the Agency faces in delivering its key programs.

Shared Environmental Management Responsibility

Under the Constitution of Canada, responsibility for environmental management is an area of shared jurisdiction among various orders of government. To minimize duplication and delays, the Agency works with its provincial and territorial counterparts to bring about greater cooperation in environmental assessment, and promote the consistent and predictable application of environmental assessment across Canada. This shared environmental management responsibility is realized by implementing or renewing bilateral agreements, and working with other jurisdictions on initiatives that serve to improve the coordinated delivery of environmental assessment processes. This cooperation is intended to ensure that a single environmental assessment of a proposed project is able to meet the needs of both the federal and a provincial or territorial government.

Integrating Competing Interests

Projects subject to environmental assessment often give rise to many sensitive issues related to development, environmental protection, Aboriginal interests and federal-provincial/territorial relations. Projects being assessed can often be complex, with competing stakeholder interests. Integrating these interests while maintaining productive relationships and delivering high-quality assessments that meet the expectations of Canadians is an ongoing challenge.

Aboriginal Peoples

Environmental assessment provisions are negotiated under comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements, including sectoral arrangements. The Agency continues to work with Aboriginal groups and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to ensure that environmental assessment regimes developed under these agreements and arrangements meet key environmental assessment requirements and take into account specific Aboriginal interests. The Agency also continues to participate in senior-level interdepartmental working groups in support of an action plan to assist departments and agencies in fulfilling Canada's legal duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate Aboriginal peoples.

The Agency has recognized that it is well-positioned to assist with building linkages between the environmental assessment and the Aboriginal Crown consultation processes to enhance overall effectiveness, efficiency and lead to more informed federal decision making.

Improved Federal Policy Development

The Agency is a strong advocate for the application of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) as a tool to support improved decision making. Since the implementation of the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, federal departments have increasingly recognized the role of this valuable tool in helping to promote sustainable development.

Over the last year, the Agency continued to support the work of a multi-stakeholder subcommittee of the Minister's Regulatory Advisory Committee (RAC) established in March 2006 to make recommendations on how to improve SEA. The Committee is undertaking work to define the broader context for SEA, explore the linkages between SEA and project environmental assessment, and examine the role of the public and Aboriginal groups in SEA.

In terms of broad policy directions, the Agency has been involved in the conceptualization of regional (strategic) environmental assessment (RSEA) in Canada, a useful construct to help bridge the higher-order, often conceptual-level assessment of broad policy and program initiatives with the more detailed and technically oriented assessment of individual projects on a local scale. A number of important RSEA-like initiatives are emerging across Canada, including regional environmental studies or assessments associated with major resource planning and management exercises, offshore renewable power generation and integrated management in the marine environment. These initiatives will significantly inform thinking about environmental assessment on a regional scale and the evolution of SEA policy. The Agency is engaged in many of these RSEA discussions, and in facilitating collaboration and the establishment of common tools and principles and will continue to monitor, participate in or lead these initiatives as they develop.

International Community

As a party to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention), Canada is required to meet the obligations that it subscribed to under the Espoo Convention. To this end, the Agency represented Canada at the UNECE for the Espoo Convention and provided funding in support of activities under the Convention. The Agency also sponsored and participated in environmental assessment and strategic environmental assessment conferences, such as the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA) held in Seoul, South Korea and the Secrtariat international francophone pour l'valuation environnementale (SIFEE) held in Geneva, Switzerland.

In addition, the Agency continued informal discussions for negotiating a transboundary environmental impact agreement with Mexico and the United States.

Stakeholders and Partners

The Agency works with a wide range of stakeholders and develops partnerships to promote sound environmental assessment practices in Canada and abroad. In support of this work, the Agency maintains and supports several mechanisms for receiving advice and consulting with stakeholders and partners, notably the Minister's multi-stakeholder Regulatory Advisory Committee, the federal Senior Management Committee on Environmental Assessment and the federal-provincial/territorial Environmental Assessment Administrators Committee. As well, it is developing consultation approaches for engaging Aboriginal peoples.

Central to the Agency's mandate is providing all proponents with a timely and predictable process, and access to both the tools and the information they need to comply with the Act. In accordance with the general thrust of the Cabinet Directive on Implementing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Agency, with the help of federal departments and agencies, will ensure that adequate guidance is available to proponents on the preparation of project descriptions that contain sufficient information to determine the need for a federal environmental assessment and, when required, to initiate efficient conduct of the assessment.

The Agency includes the following among its stakeholders and partners.

Federal Departments, Agencies and Crown Corporations

The Agency assisted federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations in meeting their obligations under the Act and relevant regulations, as well as the Cabinet Directive on Implementing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. In particular, a three-year effort of analysis, support and guidance culminated on June 11, 2006 when federal parent Crown corporations became subject to the Act. Through its operational policies, guidance and training, the Agency improved the way in which environmental assessment is conducted at the federal level. In addition, the Agency worked closely with federal departments and agencies on comprehensive studies and in providing administrative and technical support to review panels.

Provincial and Territorial Governments

Constitutionally, environmental management is an area of jurisdiction shared between various levels of government. The Agency worked cooperatively with provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments to minimize duplication and delays by bringing about greater cooperation in EAs of major projects. It also negotiated federal-provincial EA cooperation agreements, and worked with provincial and territorial governments on a broad range of EA issues.

Industry/Proponents

Central to the Agency's mandate is providing all proponents, including the federal government, with access to the tools and the guidance they need to provide complete information on their projects and the potential adverse environmental effects in order to support the timely and predictable administration of the Act. The Agency's core training courses were attended by 726 participants of whom 147 were EA consultants or industry representatives, and 395 were from federal departments.

Public and Non-Governmental Organizations

The Agency encouraged public participation and worked with stakeholders to reconcile these interests while maintaining productive relationships and promoting high-quality environmental assessments to meet the expectations of Canadians. The Agency provided participant funding to individuals and non-profit organizations, including Aboriginal peoples and groups, which enabled them to take part in the public consultation process associated with review panels and comprehensive studies. The Agency also worked with multi-stakeholder groups, including non-governmental organizations, to further develop guidance on meaningful public participation in the federal environmental assessment process.

Link to the Government of Canada Outcome Areas

The whole of government framework provides a structured logic model for the Agency to map its contribution to a set of high-level Government of Canada strategic outcomes. These outcomes promote long-term benefits to Canadians and are grouped in three broad policy areas (see chart below).

The central role for the Government of Canada is to improve the well-being of its citizens, and a sustainable economy is essential in attaining that outcome. Success depends on the reconciliation of environmental considerations with economic growth. The Agency has played a pivotal role in providing Canadians with high-quality environmental assessments, which have contributed to informed decision making in support of the Government of Canada's role in promoting and fostering sustainable economic growth.