Evaluation of the Community Ecosystem Partnerships Program

Report Clearance Steps

Planning phase completed October 2013
Report sent for management response September 2014
Management response received September 2014
Report completed September 2014
Report approved by the Deputy Minister March 2015

Acronyms used in the report

ACAP Atlantic Coastal Action Program
AEI Atlantic Ecosystem Initiatives
CEP Community Ecosystem Partnerships
DFO Fisheries and Oceans Canada
DPS Direct Program Spending
EC Environment Canada
ECO Ecosystem Coordination Office
FSDS Federal Sustainable Development Strategy
MOU Memoranda of Understanding
OBWB Okanagan Basin Water Board
OCCP Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program
PAA Program Alignment Architecture
PE Priority Ecosystem
PYR Pacific and Yukon Region
RDG Regional Director General
RDGO Regional Director General's Office
SOSCP South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program

Acknowledgments

The Evaluation Project Team would like to thank those individuals who contributed to this project, particularly members of the Evaluation Committee and all interviewees who provided insights and comments crucial to this evaluation.

The Evaluation Project Team was led by Robert Tkaczyk, under the direction of the Environment Canada Evaluation Director, William Blois, and included Urszula Adamik and Sarah Flesher.

Prepared by the Evaluation Division, Audit and Evaluation Branch

Executive Summary

This report presents the results of the Evaluation of the Community Ecosystem Partnerships (CEP) conducted by Environment Canada’s (EC) Audit and Evaluation Branch between October 2013 and September 2014.

The purpose of this evaluation was to assess the relevance and performance of the CEP program and it was conducted to fulfill the requirements of the Treasury Board Policy on Evaluation and the Financial Administration Act. The evaluation covered the five-year period from 2008-2009 to 2012-2013.The methodologies used in this evaluation were a document review, an administrative file review, and key informant interviews.

The objective of the Community Ecosystem Partnerships (sub-sub program 1.3.4.5 in EC’s Program Alignment Architecture) is to maintain and restore the beneficial uses and environmental quality of targeted ecosystems of federal interest through coordination of ecosystem initiatives. The program supports local community ecosystem projects by providing funding, strategic partnerships, and research and science support. Activities undertaken to achieve these goals include conservation of land and shorelines, protection of land and water through special designation status, and preservation of habitat.

The CEP program represents 0.29% of the Department’s 2013-2014 direct program spending (DPS), including G&Cs.

Findings and Conclusions

Relevance

The CEP program continues to be relevant as there is an ongoing need to address environmental issues, such as water quality and availability, and to collect scientific data and research, using an ecosystem-based approach. The program is aligned with government and departmental priorities related to ecosystem health improvements, and ensuring water quality and availability. The program is also consistent with federal roles and responsibilities related to the Department of Environment Act and the Canada Water Act.

Achievement of Intended Outcomes

The evaluation concluded that there is opportunity for improvement in the extent to which the CEP program meets its intended outcomes. The program is successful in achieving increased stakeholder capacity and knowledge, but the participation of governments and stakeholders is limited. The closed nature of the funding process in the Atlantic Ecosystem Initiatives (AEI), where only a restricted number of organizations are eligible to apply for funding, limits EC participation with communities. In the Okanagan-Similkameen Priority Ecosystem (PE), the CEP program has been unable to expand community participation beyond a select number of organizations. Insufficient coordination of activities in both ecosystem initiatives within the department hinders the CEP’s progress towards coordinated ecosystem-based management. Progress is being made in the AEI with regard to the overarching goal of maintaining and restoring the beneficial uses and environmental quality in the region, but the evaluation was unable to conclude to what extent this is being achieved in the Okanagan-Similkameen PE. Achievements of some outcomes were hard to assess because of the lack of a performance measurement strategy for the CEP program.

Efficiency and Economy

The evaluation found that, overall, activities and outputs of the CEP program are delivered at a low cost and that the program successfully leverages contributions from other funding sources. However, some opportunities for improvement in efficiency were identified for the Okanagan-Similkameen PE and include a need for better communication of program objectives and priorities and improving collaboration with funding recipients. The CEP program had already introduced significant organizational efficiency improvements in response to Budget 2012 commitments. For AEI, further changes to the program delivery model are being introduced. For the Okanagan-Similkameen PE, no documented evidence was found as to how the reduced resources will impact program activities going forward.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are directed to the RDG, West and North, and the RDG, Atlantic and Quebec, as the senior departmental officials responsible for the management of the CEP program.

Recommendation 1: The RDG, West and North, in consultation with the RDG, Atlantic and Quebec, should consider the development of an overarching strategic plan and associated performance measurement strategy that would allow the program to better communicate its overall objectives and report on its results.

Recommendation 2: The RDG, Atlantic and Quebec, should revisit the current closed contributions funding process in the AEI to determine whether program objectives would be better served by a competitive process that is open to a wider range and number of applicants.

Recommendation 3: The RDG, West and North, should develop and implement an operational plan for the Okanagan-Similkameen PE to better align program objectives, delivery model, expected roles, and available resources within this ecosystem.

Management Response

The responsible Regional Directors General agree with all three recommendations and have developed a management response that appropriately addresses each of the recommendations. The full management response can be found in Section 6 of the report.

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