Canadians have until August 28 to provide the federal government with feedback on its proposed changes to environmental and regulatory processes for major projects.
Natural Resources Canada released a discussion paper on Friday outlining proposed reforms that draw from public consultations, expert panel reports and parliamentary studies conducted over the last 12 months.
The government says its goal is to implement processes that will regain public trust, protect the environment, advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and ensure “good projects go ahead and resources get to market.”
NRCan changes being considered are:
- Establishing a single government agency responsible for assessments of federally designated projects. “The review would go beyond environmental impacts to also consider social, health and economic aspects of a project and require a gender-based analysis,” NRCan said in a statement.“Joint assessments will be undertaken with the life cycle regulator for major energy transmission, nuclear and offshore oil and gas projects. Each review will draw on carefully reviewed scientific evidence, Indigenous knowledge and available data on the cumulative effects in the region where the project is planned.”
- Requiring an early planning phase to foster greater collaboration and engagement between proponents, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, the public and federal and provincial governments. “This will build a common understanding of interests and issues and provide greater clarity and certainty to proponents,” NRCan said.
- Early and regular engagement and partnership with Indigenous peoples based on recognition of Indigenous rights and interests from the outset, seeking to achieve free, prior and informed consent through processes based on mutual respect and dialogue.
- Restoring lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards to the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.
“Our aim is to modernize the project assessment process so that decisions can be made effectively and efficiently in collaboration with provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples — with the goal of having one assessment for one project,” NRCan said.
“This will position us to remain globally competitive, attract investment, develop natural resources responsibly and advance a clean growth economy.”
So far, the paper has won positive reviews from energy-industry groups. Canadian Energy Pipeline Association chief executive officer Chris Bloomer said Thursday that while his organization is taking time to fully review the paper, it supports the principles laid out in the document and is “encouraged” by its content.
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Executive Vice President Terry Abel said his group backs the proposal as well.
“They’ve done a really good job of identifying opportunities where there could be improvements, and it’s reflective of the broad range of input they’ve heard,” Abel told Bloomberg News.
—With files from Bloomberg L.P.