Environment and Climate Change Canada
- What has been the impact of COVID-19 on ECCC operations and what have you done to prepare the workplace for the safe return of employees? How much has it cost?
Points to register
- ECCC provides critical services to Canadians and is required to maintain operations during COVID-19. To ensure employee safety, the Department has invested in equipment, processes and procedures to ensure the workplace is safe for those critical services employees that remain onsite.
- Weather forecasting offices were retrofitted with measures to maintain physical distancing and necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure continued operations. These offices use specialized equipment for everything from monitoring water levels in the spring, to wildfires, severe weather such as tornadoes, as well as hurricanes through the summer and fall.
- The National Environmental Emergencies Centre is using a hybrid model with staff rotating in the office to maintain physical distancing while monitoring for emergencies 24/7 and providing assistance using specialized tools.
- In an effort to prioritize the health and safety of the Department’s workforce, ECCC conducted field and laboratory activities in 2020-21 in support of priority air, water and wildlife monitoring and research programs. Some field and laboratory work related to non-critical services were temporarily suspended.
- The resumption of fieldwork for 2021-22 is a critical and time sensitive function which allows the Department to support its legal requirement and scientific objectives. As such, the resumption of field and laboratory activities conforms to the latest advice from the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO), and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The scope of these activities is based on local and regional COVID-19 epidemiology. Branches will remain flexible in implementation, continually monitoring changing circumstances and making adjustments accordingly.
- ECCC continues to assess sanitary pollution risks in shellfish-bearing marine waters and works with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to meet food safety objectives and the protection of shellfish consumers.
- Enforcement Branch continues to respond to pollution and toxic substance events having significant impact on human health and/or the environment.
- Enforcement activities are prioritized based on a risk assessment where enforcement officers consider, on a case-by-case basis, any damage to the environment, any other aggravating factors and whether all reasonable measures were taken by an individual or company to mitigate and to comply.
- In June 2020, the Department gradually opened select National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) with modifications to mitigate health and safety risks in order to provide Canadians with access to the health and wellness benefits of being outdoors.
- COVID-19 prevention measures are in effect and TBS signage requiring physical distancing has been installed in all ECCC facilities. Prevention measures include requirements for mask wearing, physical distancing and surface and hand disinfection.
- All employees and managers accessing the worksite had to take the “Access to the Worksite” mandatory training and awareness session.
- As of February 2021, ECCC has absorbed $4.9M in expenditures related to COVID.
- Task Hazard Analysis and Safe Work Procedures were developed, implemented and updated for field work, laboratory operations and office work.
- ECCC has implemented flexible work options and new strategies to support employee health and well-being and maintain departmental operations throughout the pandemic. For ECCC employees that are required to access the workplace, measures are in place to ensure their health and safety. The department’s risk-based approach includes a comprehensive COVID-19 response framework and algorithm to guide decision-making regarding the return of employees to the workplace. Task Hazard Analysis and Safe Work Procedures were developed, implemented and updated for field work, laboratory operations and office work.
- Primarily critical service ECCC employees are accessing the workplace at this time. However, field work and laboratory services will continue to expand operations as required and based on national, provincial, territorial and local public health advice. Substantial planning and risk mitigation measures have been implemented to ensure the safety of employees returning to fieldwork and for employees entering laboratories.
- To ensure the health and safety of ECCC employees, maximum occupancy will be managed via the mandatory use of a booking through the Return to Workplace Application. Maximum occupancy by building and floor have been determined based on criteria such as occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations, National Building Code requirements and physical distancing measures. In addition, all employees and managers accessing the worksite had to take the “Access to the Worksite” mandatory training and awareness session.
- The Department-wide launch of the Return to the Workplace Application (RTW App) took place on November 18, 2020, and as of the end of April over 46,450 requests have been submitted in the RTW App.
- In addition, the Department has installed COVID-19 prevention measures in all ECCC facilities in consultation with our various bargaining agents and OHS committees throughout the Department. ECCC has installed TBS-approved signage and floor markers throughout our buildings to require staff to maintain minimum physical distancing. Prevention measures in effect are in-line with guidance from health authorities and central agencies. These measures include mask wearing, enhanced cleaning measures, hand cleaning and disinfection stations and training for all employees working on site.
- The Department has completed a planning and preparation exercise to guide the eventual return to the workplace for ECCC employees. The departmental plan outlines a gradual and phased approach to the return to the workplace. The phased approach is based on federal, provincial and local public health measures and advice. The movement between phases, and gradually increase of the number of employees onsite, is dependent on the various public health emergency measures in effect across Canada.
From a financial perspective, how is ECCC impacted by the COVID-19?
- In terms of expenditures related to COVID-19, ECCC has incurred a total of $16.2M as of February 2021. These expenses are mostly related to the statutory authority for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, representing $11.3M, and the remaining expenses of $4.9M were absorbed within the Department’s existing reference levels.
- In early June 2020 new funding to support ESDC-led Youth Employment and Skills Strategy was announced including $11.4M in 2020-21 for ECCC, primarily within grants and contributions. This additional funding was presented in the 2020-21 Supplementary Estimates B. Of the $11.4M in funding received $11.3M was spent.
- As of February 2021, ECCC absorbed $4.9M in Operating expenditures for:
- Interactions with the public including the purchase of protective equipment such as masks, goggles, hand sanitizer and cleaning products for the enforcement officers and employees of the National Wildlife Areas;
- Internal requirements to support operations including enhanced cleaning protocols, bandwidth upgrades for remote work, and the establishment of a COVID Secretariat, and;
- Expenses related to an employee supporting Health Canada’s COVID-19 task team.
- Remote work reimbursement for employees and other expenditures such as: expenses related to the plan for a phased return to the workplace, trip cancellation costs and/or additional related travel costs, etc.
|Youth Employment and Skills Strategy||Other expenses (masks, goggles, hand sanitizer, protective equipment, task team, etc)||Total|
|Department existing funding used||-||$4.9M||$4.9M|
|Expenses as of February 28||$11.3M||$4.9M||$16.2M|
How many employees are currently using code 699?
- From October 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021, 348 employees have submitted at least 1 hour of 699 leave and 218 employees have submitted at least 7.5 hours.
What is the total accumulated cost to the Department of employees using code 699?
- The total amount for ECCC is $8.57M as of February 28, 2021.
How many employees are working remotely?
- The majority of the ECCC workforce continues to telework as recommended by the Public Health Officer of Canada and the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO).
- Over 99% of the workforce is operational despite challenges related to COVID-19.
- Approximately 1,583 positions have been identified as mission critical and critical support services.
- Up to 1,100 of these employees continued to work on site during the pandemic.
- Approximately 80% of ECCC employees are working remotely.
How many employees are working from the office?
- ECCC’s Business Continuity Plan identifies approximately 1,583 employees performing critical functions at Environment and Climate Change Canada. Up to 1,100 of these employees continue to work on site during the pandemic.
How much has the Department spent to equip a remote workforce?
- As of April 7, 2021, the Department has spent $573,622 on the purchase of equipment to ensure employees are set up appropriately to work remotely.
Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
- Did the Agency have any revenue shortfalls over the last six months of the fiscal year due to the impact of the pandemic?
Points to register
- There were no material shortfalls in regards to revenues due to the pandemic. Revenues linked to salaries are on par with last year.
- O&M was impacted by lack of travel and room rental for public hearing/consultations.
- As a result of the pandemic, some Review Panel activities associated with in-person engagement and consultation did not occur due to public health restrictions. However, this did not result in any revenue shortfalls as the Agency only recovers expenses that have been incurred. (Under cost recovery regulations, IAAC has the authority to recover certain costs from proponents directly related to the exercise of IAAC’s responsibilities during assessments by review panels.)
Has the Agency been able to spend all of their allocated budget for grants and contribution distribution?
- Despite the challenges that the pandemic posed, the Agency spent 95% of its allocated budget under its grants and contributions funding programs. Participant funding provided to public and Indigenous groups helps the Agency obtain information and advice, better understand and respond to community and Indigenous concerns, and inform decision-makers about those concerns in order to inform decision-making.
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on IAAC operations (e.g., Engagement/Public Participation, Indigenous Consultation and Compliance/Enforcement activities)?
- All IAAC sectors and offices pivoted to remote work beginning in March 2020. Virtual engagement, public consultation and compliance and enforcement work all became virtual. As of April 2021, Regional Offices and the Ottawa Office continue to be closed.
- Public consultation and engagement for environmental assessments and impact assessments were conducted online using video technology such as Zoom.
- Officials from IAAC have been in close contact with Indigenous partners ensuring that every effort has been made to adapt the approaches taken to consultation in order to respond to the unique circumstances and challenges faced by Indigenous communities during the pandemic.
- The Crown Consultation Operations Division conducted some in person consultation activities with the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation during summer 2020.
- This has included use of new technologies to hold virtual meetings, extension of comment periods and other timelines where possible, and other methods to ensure that the Government of Canada has continued to work in partnership with Indigenous communities to find innovative ways to continue to advance dialogue and consultations during this unique and difficult time.
- The Agency’s Indigenous Advisory Committee shifted to virtual engagement through regular video-conferences with the Agency and has been able to develop and submit formal advice through online collaboration among members.
- From October 27 to December 2, 2020, the Joint Review Panel for the Grassy Mountain Coal Project held its public hearing. In response to COVID-19 restrictions, the review panel did this virtually over Zoom and YouTube. The virtual hearing proved to be an effective alternative to an in-person public hearing and ensured the Joint Review Panel was able to fulfill its administrative obligations. Over 100 individuals, including members of the public, representatives from Indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations, municipal governments, expert witnesses, legal counsel, and Government of Canada experts actively participated in the virtual hearing.
- The Agency carried out virtual compliance promotion activities with proponents, Indigenous groups and members of the public. Enforcement officers continued conducting compliance verification activities for decision statement conditions and the Impact Assessment Act. While the number of on-site inspections was reduced as a result of COVID-19, off-site inspections continued as usual.
What has the Agency done to prepare the workplace for the safe return of employees? How much has this cost?
- The Agency has spent approximately $20,000 ($19,727.68) on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) nationwide.
- The Agency has purchased PPE for its offices and employees. These items include latex nitrile gloves, non-medical washable masks, hand sanitizer, freestanding sanitization stations and freestanding metal stands, hard surface disinfectant, and tempered glass sneeze guards for the main reception and the President’s suite. These items have been distributed to all of the Agency’s offices.
- In addition to the purchase of PPE, additional measures have been implemented in the office space environment. For example, signage was added to inform occupants of COVID-19 preventive and public health measures, hand sanitizer stations were installed at key entrances and exit points and cleaning products were placed throughout the floors for easy access. The current Workplace 2.0 set-up enables a two-meter distance between employees at all times, and seating was removed from boardrooms and kitchens to help limit capacity.
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