Summary of the Meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee on Science and Knowledge
September 18-19, 2019
Ottawa

Meeting Objectives

The objectives of the second meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee were to review and provide initial feedback on outlines for two documents that the Agency is developing to support the implementation of the Impact Assessment Act: (1) Regional Assessment Policy; and, (2) Assessing Social, Economic and Health Impacts. The Committee also discussed and provided input on the framework for the review of impact assessment science, which is being led by the Chief Science Advisor of Canada. Members were to provide written feedback on all three items after the meeting.

These topical discussions were preceded by an update by the Agency on the use of the input from the Committee’s previous meeting and a discussion on the Committee’s forward work plan.

Day 1 – September 18, 2019

Welcome and Debrief

The Agency’s non-voting Ex-Officio member of the Committee welcomed members and opened with an acknowledgement that the meeting was being held on unceded Algonquin and Anishinabek territory.

The Ex-Officio member informed the Committee that the summary of the last meeting would soon be posted on the Agency’s website. The Committee agreed that meeting summaries would be approved via email, rather than discussed at meetings, unless there was a disagreement.

The Ex-Officio member debriefed on the first meeting of the Indigenous Advisory Committee. The Technical Advisory Committee welcomed the interest expressed by the Indigenous Advisory Committee in working collaboratively.

Update on Recent Developments

The Ex-Officio member gave a brief overview of the Agency’s work since the Committee’s first meeting and the coming into force of the Impact Assessment Act, noting the publishing of new guidance documents on the Agency’s website, that the Agency’s name had changed to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and that the Agency was headed by a new President, David McGovern. The Ex-Officio member also spoke to how the Committee’s input was used to improve the Agency’s guidance documents on sustainability. In addition to that, the Agency’s Chief Science and Knowledge Officer provided an update on the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines and projects that would be assessed under the Impact Assessment Act:

Revision of the Committee’s Terms of Reference

The Co-chairs led a discussion on the Terms of Reference leading to the agreement that the current version would be interim and that the Committee would review it in a year. For clarification and effectiveness, the Committee proposed the following changes to the current draft:

Agenda item: Forward Work Plan

The Agency’s Vice-President of External Relations and Strategic Policy participated in this session. The Vice-President thanked the Committee for its contribution to improving guidance that the Agency is developing. Emphasizing the importance of leveraging relationships, the Vice-President noted that the Agency has been taking an adaptive approach to support a learning process within the Agency.

The Committee placed emphasis on understanding the Agency’s needs and constraints so that it could produce effective advice, both reactively and strategically. For the forward work plan, the Committee highlighted the need for identifying broader subjects and issues relevant to Agency’s mandate and to deal with them based on urgency. Some of the broader issues could capture new aspects of the Act, including: aspects of early planning that may pose implementation challenges, aspects of the impact assessment neglected in past practice, and lessons learned by impact assessment practitioners.

The Committee noted other considerations that would be useful in determining priorities for the TAC forward agenda including: urgency, items new to the Act, current state of knowledge, long standing gaps, and whether or not the TAC is positioned to support. This led to a discussion of other resources.

The Committee also discussed the question of how many items should be included in a meeting for discussion. It would probably be more effective to focus on fewer rather than more issues and allow sufficient time for full discussion.

Agenda Item: Regional Assessment Policy Outline

An Agency official presented the background on the proposed approach for the Agency’s regional assessment policy. According to the Impact Assessment Act, the Minister may set up regional assessments based on specific considerations or in response to requests from the public.

The Committee was given the following questions for guiding the discussion:

The Committee offered the following ideas:

Day 2 – September 19, 2019

Agenda item: Assessing Social, Health, and Economic Effects

An Agency representative outlined the objective of a planned guidance document covering social, health and economic factors. These factors are not new in impact assessment; they are considered in some provincial legislation as well as in some international jurisdictions. CEAA 2012 required the analysis of these factors with respect to Indigenous peoples. The requirement under the Impact Assessment Act, however, is more expansive and includes both positive and negative effects. The Agency is considering two options for the development of a guidance document: (1) three separate documents – one each on health, social and economic effects; and (2) one comprehensive document.

The Committee was asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What methods/approaches could be recommended to ensure that impacts are considered holistically, including interactions between effects?
  2. How can proponents best integrate qualitative and quantitative data to determine effects on valued components that may not be amenable to quantification?
  3. Is the proposal to focus the guidance document around the concept of “well-being” useful? Should some other concept be used to ground the analysis (for example, the “Human Environment”), or does the focus on “well-being” risk obscuring the objectives of the guidance?
  4. In gathering data, how should proponents address issues of confidentiality (for example, if local residents are unwilling to share information on sensitive issues, such as domestic violence)?
    • In these situations, and in cases where detailed data is not available, what metric could the Agency employ to determine whether the issue has been adequately assessed?
  5. What are other best practices that the Agency should be aware of for assessing social, economic, and health effects?

The Committee provided the following ideas:

Agenda item: Evaluation of the Science used in Impact Assessments

This session was held as part of ongoing consultations by the Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada (OCSA) on the Review of impact assessment science. The first Review is to be conducted within three years of the coming into force of the Impact Assessment Act and every three years thereafter. To initiate discussion, the Researcher in Residence at the OCSA introduced the review framework, highlighting its three performance criteria, namely scientific integrity, scientific credibility and scientific transparency. The questions suggested by the OCSA for guiding the discussion were as follows:

The discussion resulted in the following clarifications and points for consideration:

Agenda item: Next Steps

Technical Advisory Committee on Science and Knowledge
Action Items

Secretariat Action Items

Members’ Action Items

Attendees

Co-Chairs

Committee members

Office of the Chief Science Advisor

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada

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