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ARCHIVED - RPP 2007-2008
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

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Section 1 – Overview

1.1 Minister’s Message

I am pleased to present the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (the Agency) 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities. This report outlines the Agency’s key plans, priorities and expected results for Canadians over the next three years.

In leading the implementation of the federal environmental assessment process, the Agency maintains a commitment to high-quality, efficient environmental assessments and promotes continuous learning and improvement.

The Agency achieves these goals by focusing on three key priorities: building and maintaining a legislative, regulatory, and policy framework that enables the delivery of high-quality environmental assessments in a predictable, certain and timely manner; actively leading the federal environmental assessment process and coordinating federal environmental assessment activities with other jurisdictions; and building the capacity to deliver on existing and new responsibilities.

To advance these key priorities, the Agency promotes an integrated, project-management approach to environmental assessments, as well as ensures public access to credible and relevant environmental analysis materials and opportunities to engage in environmental assessments.

In the last year the Agency has faced a significant increase in the numbers of complex projects being assessed. In order to continue to provide high-quality environmental assessments for Canadians, the Agency has redoubled its efforts to pursue excellence, recognizing that success is predicated on the professionalism, dedication and performance of its staff.

By embracing innovative approaches for addressing new and existing challenges, I am confident the Agency will continue to lead efforts to ensure that Canada has a progressive and robust federal environmental assessment framework well into the future.

It pleases me, therefore, to submit the Agency’s 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities.

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

1.2 Management Representation Statement


I submit for tabling in Parliament, the 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities for the Canadian Environmental Assessment  Agency.

This document has been prepared based on the reporting principles contained in the Guide to the Preparation of Part III of the 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(s) and Program Activity Architecture that were approved by the Treasury Board;
  • It represents consistent, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information;
  • It provides a basis of accountability for the results achieved with the resources and authorities entrusted to the Agency; and
  • It reports finances based on approved planned spending numbers from the Treasury Board Secretariat in the RPP.

Name: Jean-Claude Bouchard
Title: President

1.3 Summary Information

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

The strategic outcome that defines the work of the Agency is “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 two key programs: providing leadership and expert advice in support of environmental assessment; and developing, maintaining and improving the federal environmental assessment framework and building and clarifying linkages with other environmental assessment regulatory frameworks.

Financial Resources ($ thousands)


Human Resources (Full Time Equivalent-FTE)



1.4 Agency Priorities by Strategic Outcome and Program Activity

Detailed Agency plans to deliver expected results are contained in Section II – Analysis of Program Activity by Strategic Outcome.

Strategic Outcome: Environmental assessment is an integral part of program and policy decision making
Estimated Planned Spending ($ thousands)
Program Activity: Priority Type
Efficient and effective environmental assessment No. 1
Build a framework for more integrated environmental assessments.
No. 2
Assume a more active leadership role in federal environmental assessment.
No. 3
Build the capacity to deliver on existing and new responsibilities.

Led by the President, who reports directly to the Minister of the Environment, the Agency is mandated by 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 training and guidance to federal authorities on environmental assessment considerations and requirements in respect to proposed policies, plans and programs.

As well, the Agency works with federal authorities on the application of the Cabinet Directive on Implementation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Agency provides advice and guidance on the Directive’s expectations, as well as leading interdepartmental efforts to advance the Directive’s goals of delivering high quality environmental assessments in a predictable, certain and timely manner.

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.

1.5 Agency Plans and Priorities

1.5.1 Program Priorities

Beyond established program activities with respect to federal environmental assessment, a specific focus of the Agency‘s 2007-2008 plans and priorities is to better integrate and streamline the federal environmental assessment processes.

The current federal environmental assessment system is largely based on the principle of self-assessment. Consequently, departments and agencies have their own discrete environmental assessment responsibilities to execute, though often in relation to the same project. The resulting decentralized system has some advantages, but it also has significant shortcomings. The March 2005 document, Smart Regulation: Report on Actions and Plans, updated in October 2005, identified planned improvements to environmental assessment as a priority. As part of the 2006 Economic and Fiscal Update, the government committed to work on the implementation of a more streamlined environmental assessment process based on greater coordination both within the federal government and with provincial and territorial governments. The Agency is working on options for improving the federal environmental assessment process.

In November 2005, the Cabinet Directive on Implementation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act took effect. The Directive sets out the expectations of ministers regarding the Agency‘s leadership role and instructs the Agency and federal authorities on how they should conduct themselves to deliver high-quality environmental assessments in a timely and predictable manner. The Agency has played a critical role in the implementation of this Directive.

The Agency will move forward in discussing opportunities for more integrated federal environmental assessments with stakeholders and develop options for Ministers‘ and potentially Parliament‘s consideration. As well, efforts will continue to refine and streamline federal-provincial agreements to ensure more integrated environmental assessments.

The Agency has three priorities over this planning period: build a framework for more integrated environmental assessment, play an active leadership role in federal environmental assessment and build the capacity to deliver on existing and new responsibilities.

  1. Build a framework for more integrated environmental assessment.
    In order to foster a more effective, efficient environmental assessment process for Canadians, the Agency plans to continue its work of:
    • consulting with partner departments and stakeholders, including provinces and territories;
    • defining policy directions;
    • providing guidance on federal environmental assessment;
    • pursuing targeted regulatory improvements;
    • examining options for a revised role and mandate; and
    • if necessary, proposing new and/or revised legislation.
  2. Play an active leadership role in federal environmental assessment.
    Stronger Agency leadership will:
    • support more timely and effective environmental assessments;
    • enhance the Agency’s credibility;
    • let it test operational approaches that reduce fragmentation; and
    • lay the groundwork for possible legislative improvements.
    This includes serving as a centre of expertise, training, and guidance on emerging issues related to environmental assessment; introducing improvements to the panel management function; piloting more integrated approaches for specific projects; and playing a stronger role as the Federal Environmental Assessment Coordinator (FEAC) for major projects.
  3. Build the capacity to deliver on existing and new responsibilities.
    To move ahead on the first two priorities while meeting existing responsibilities, the Agency must actively develop its internal capacities. This will involve investments in employee development and the tools required to assure leadership and excellence in environmental assessment. It will also mean integrating new people with the required skills, in part through a new interdepartmental environmental assessment Recruitment and Development Program championed by the Agency.

Through these three priorities, the Agency will also show increasing leadership in delivering its regular ongoing key programs to partners and stakeholders. For details on these activities, see Section II – Analysis of Program Activity by Strategic Outcome.

1.5.2 Management Priorities

The Management Accountability Framework (MAF) is an initiative implemented by the Treasury Board Secretariat in 2003 that is used to measure an organization’s success in implementing modern management practices. The framework brings together a number of elements of other frameworks, such as the Modern Comptrollership initiative, Human Resources Modernization, the Service Improvement Initiative and Government On-Line.

The Agency has made significant progress in implementing the MAF: a governance structure has been formalized; authorities and delegations have been articulated and communicated to staff; the Policy Framework is in place; the Planning and Performance Reporting (Program Activity Architecture) has been approved and is used in this document; and management and employees have been informed of their responsibilities with respect to public service values and ethics.

MAF initiatives will be refined and updated as required by evolving circumstances over the planning period. Particular focus will be placed on human resources and results and performance evaluation.

Human resources management is another of the Agency’s management priorities. The Agency’s comprehensive Human Resources Plan serves as a foundation for integrating business and people management, and for HR decision making. The Agency will work to ensure that its diverse workforce reflects Canadian society.

To ensure the continued success and full implementation of Human Resources Modernization, the Agency will continue to modernize its HR framework and take full advantage of new flexibilities, including through the interdepartmental environmental assessment Recruitment and Development Program, which will begin to address the shortage of environmental assessment practitioners in the federal government. 

The HR plan’s major objectives are to:

  • enable alignment of human resource priorities with business goals;
  • reduce organizational risks related to environmental changes;
  • increase transparency of linkages between human resource activities and business drivers for all stakeholders;
  • identify strategies to foster a flexible and motivating work environment; and
  • provide a framework for human resource modernization.

1.5.3 Program Activity – Efficient and Effective environmental asssessment

The Agency delivers on its key program responsibilities and addresses its priorities through this program activity.

The Agency plays an important role in providing leadership, guidance, training and recommendations to federal departments and agencies. This helps ensure that environmental assessment activities comply with the Act, reflect effective and efficient environmental assessment practices, consider public values and support the principles of sustainable development. The Agency also promotes consistent approaches to environmental assessments across Canada and with international partners. The Agency works with provincial, territorial and local partners to develop cooperative approaches wherever possible. It also fosters engagement with Aboriginal communities.

This important work is carried out within the following key programs:

  1. Providing leadership and expert advice in support of environmental assessment

    Implementing the federal environmental assessment framework:
    • Actively coordinate the environmental assessment process for major development proposals being reviewed through comprehensive studies or multi-jurisdictional screenings.
    • Actively support environmental assessments by review panels.
    • Run a class screenings program to facilitate an efficient, grouped review of similar projects subject to screening-level assessments. 
    • Run the participant funding program, which facilitates public participation in the environmental assessment process for panels and comprehensive studies.
    • Lead training and guidance activities which improve the consistency and quality of environmental assessment.
    • Through the interdepartmental environmental assessment Projects Committee, lead the development and application of tools to support implementation of the Cabinet Directive on Implementation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, including an Interim Approach to Scoping and an Approach to Aboriginal Engagement.
    • Maintain and operate the online Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry.
    • The Agency also has the authority to facilitate, mediate and manage informal dispute resolutions to address environmental assessment-related issues.
  2. Developing, maintaining and improving the federal environmental assessment framework and building and clarifying linkages with other environmental assessment and regulatory frameworks
    • Lead development and review of, and consultation and communication on, the legislative, regulatory and policy basis for the federal practice of environmental assessment.
    • Gather, analyze and provide environmental assessment performance information to monitor compliance with the Act and quality of assessments.
    • Support research and promote continuous learning and development and improvement of environmental assessment practices.
    • Promote the integration of environmental considerations at the earliest stage of the decision-making process using strategic environmental assessments.
    • Establish a cooperative policy framework and bilateral agreements for environmental assessment processes with jurisdictions.
    • Build and clarify linkages and strengthen coordination among environmental assessment processes and between environmental assessment and regulatory frameworks.
    • Support the establishment of environmental assessment regimes, as part of land claims and self-government agreements, which meet or exceed the requirements of the Act.
    • Establish a policy framework for Aboriginal engagement in federal environmental assessment and clarify the Agency’s role with respect to fulfilling the Crown’s constitutional duty to consult Aboriginal peoples.
    • Maintain and support mechanisms for receiving advice and consulting with stakeholders, including, but not restricted to, the Minister’s Regulatory Advisory Committee, the Senior Management Committee on Environmental Assessment and the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Environmental Assessment Administrators Committee.

1.5.4 Agency Operating Environment and Challenges

Protecting the environment, while continuing to build a strong economy and improving quality of life for Canadians, is an important challenge. Environmental assessment responds to this challenge by ensuring environmental effects are considered before decisions are taken that would allow policies, plans, programs or projects to proceed.

Under the Act, federal departments and agencies must undertake an environmental assessment 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 authorizations to enable a project to go forward.

Each year, approximately 10,000 environmental assessments are conducted under the Act. Since the Act came into effect in 1995, over 60,000 projects have been assessed.

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

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

Shared Environmental Management Responsibility
Under the Canadian Constitution, responsibility for environmental management is an area of shared jurisdiction among various levels of government. To minimize duplication and delays, the Agency works with provinces and territories 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 provinces and territories on initiatives that serve to improve the coordinated delivery of environmental assessment.

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

Strength of the Canadian Economy
The number of environmental assessments required pursuant to the Act is a function of the strength of our economy. The expansion of the Canadian economy has led to a more than 50% increase in major projects subject to review under the Act in the past year alone and another 20% increase is predicted for the natural resource sector in the near future. The delivery of timely and effective environmental assessments in the face of this increase in activity is an on-going challenge.

Aboriginal Peoples
The recognition of Aboriginal self-government and the development of land claim agreements have reshaped environmental assessment throughout Canada. The Agency is working with Aboriginal groups and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to ensure that environmental assessment regimes developed under these comprehensive land claims, self-government agreements and sectoral arrangements meet key environmental assessment requirements and take into account specific Aboriginal interests.

Consistent with legislative changes introduced through Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Act, the Agency is also considering how best to engage Aboriginal peoples and consider their interests in environmental assessments and with respect to policy issues related to the Act.

The Supreme Court of Canada has established that the Crown – federal and provincial – may have the duty to consult, and possibly accommodate, Aboriginal peoples in relation to the potential infringement of Aboriginal rights and titles. The same Crown‘s decision-making authority that triggers an environmental assessment under the Act may also trigger this “constitutional duty of consultation”. The Agency is examining how it may better coordinate and, where appropriate, integrate environmental assessment and Crown consultation requirements in a way that will enhance both processes and lead to better and more informed federal decisions.

Improved Federal Policy Development
The Agency is a strong advocate for the application of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) as a tool to support integrated decision making. Since the implementation of the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Cabinet Directive), federal departments have increasingly recognized the role of this valuable tool in helping to promote sustainable development. In its role to promote application of SEA, the Agency will continue to provide training, develop guidance and provide advice and support to departments and agencies as needed. The Agency will also continue to develop its advocacy and advisory role, track national and international developments in the field (such as the emerging interest in regionally-focused environmental assessment), and provide leadership to address identified deficiencies in this evolving field of policy research. The Agency will support the work of a multi-stakeholder advisory committee looking at ways of improving SEA. The Agency has also been called upon to play an oversight role in managing the evaluation of the Cabinet Directive to be completed by 2008.

International Community
International partnerships give Canada the opportunity to share environmental assessment expertise and, at the same time, access the research being undertaken in other countries. Keeping in step with the environmental initiatives of international organizations and other countries also helps to ensure the competitive position of Canadian exporters. In addition, Canada’s international environmental assessment responsibilities must respect foreign policy and trade practices, and ensure consistency with the processes of other countries and organizations. As a party to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, Canada is required to meet the obligations that it subscribed to under the Convention. Within the North American context, the Agency is working with the United States and Mexico to seek the development of a trilateral agreement on Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment.

1.5.5 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 Regulatory Advisory Committee (multi-stakeholder), the Senior Management Committee on Environmental Assessment (federal departments and agencies) and the Environmental Assessment Administrators Committee (provincial and territorial governments). It is also developing additional mechanisms for consultation with Aboriginal peoples.

The Agency includes the following among its stakeholders and partners:

  • Federal Departments, Agencies and Crown Corporations
    The Agency administers the federal environmental assessment process and assists federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations in meeting their obligations under the Act. Through its operational policies and procedures, the Agency improves the way in which environmental assessments are conducted at the federal level. In addition, the Agency works closely with federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations on comprehensive studies; in providing coordination, administrative and technical support to review panels and mediators; and in developing training and guidance material.
  • Provincial and Territorial Governments
    The Agency works closely with other jurisdictions to coordinate federal and provincial environmental assessment activities, such as joint panel review processes for major projects. It also negotiates federal–provincial framework agreements and works with provincial and territorial governments on all types of environmental assessment review processes.
  • Aboriginal Peoples
    The Agency advises Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to ensure that the environmental assessment regimes developed and implemented pursuant to comprehensive land claims agreements, self-government agreements and devolution initiatives are consistent with the requirements of the Act and can be coordinated with existing environmental assessment regimes.

    The Agency actively participates in a senior level interdepartmental policy working group which is tasked with developing guidance and policy for federal departments on the constitutional duty of consultation with Aboriginal peoples.
  • Industry/Proponents
    Providing the necessary tools, guidance and training to all proponents, which includes the federal government, is a core business of the Agency. Such tools and guidance enable project proponents to meet the requirements of the Act, increase the quality of assessments and allow the timely and predictable administration of the Act.
  • Public and Non-Governmental Organizations
    The Act promotes the integration of public values in decision making. Accordingly, the Agency seeks to maximize the public’s participation throughout the environmental assessment process and places strong emphasis on transparency and information sharing. The Agency provides participant funding to individuals and non-profit organizations to take part in review panels and comprehensive studies. It also maintains the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry Internet site, which facilitates access to information about environmental assessments.

1.5.6 Linking Agency Program Activities to Government of Canada Outcomes

The following paragraphs illustrate how the Agency’s strategic outcome links to the Government of Canada’s performance outcome of “strong economic growth”.

An effective and efficient environmental assessment process provides net ecological, economic and social benefits to society and demonstrates that environmental assessment practice leads to verifiable and durable improvements in environmental quality and community well-being.

Increase in demand for energy is likely to result in more energy-related development projects. Environmental assessment is a useful tool for promoting consideration of the Government’s climate change policies and the potential effects of climate change in project development.

In a global economy, countries must compete for foreign investment. Environmental sustainability is an emerging basis for competitiveness, with consumers, producers and investors all responding to this change. The efficiency and effectiveness of the environmental assessment process can contribute to a positive view of the country. A more certain, timely and predictable environmental assessment process will also strengthen Canada’s investment climate and international competitiveness.