2018-2019 Departmental Plan: Operating context and key risks

Operating context: conditions affecting our work

The Agency operates in a continuously changing environment impacted by government priorities and external factors such as market and socio-economic conditions impacting the type, timing, volume and distribution of project requiring assessment.

Protecting the environment, while supporting economic growth and improving the quality of life of Canadians, is a priority of the Government of Canada. Environmental assessment supports these priorities by ensuring that opportunities to eliminate, reduce or control potential adverse impacts on the environment, as well as mitigation measures, are identified to assist in the decision-making process.

Following commitments made in the Minister’s mandate letter Endnote ii, the Speech from the Throne Endnote iii and Budget 2016 Endnote iv, a comprehensive review of environmental assessment processes was undertaken which will inform the government’s future approach to the conduct of environmental assessments. The Government’s contemplated changes are outlined in the discussion paper issued in June 2017, Environmental and Regulatory Reviews: Discussion Paper. Until legislative, regulatory and policy change is effected, the Agency continues to carry out Environmental Assessments in accordance with the Act and the government’s interim approach and principles for assessing major projects Endnote v announced in January 2016. The Agency supports the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in bringing potential reforms to the environmental assessment process, while continuing to deliver on its current responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner.

The federal Crown has a legal duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate Indigenous groups when it contemplates conduct that may adversely affect potential or established Aboriginal or treaty rights. Indigenous consultation considerations are integrated into all environmental assessments conducted by the Agency and by review panels. The environmental assessment process established under CEAA 2012 coexists with other impact assessment requirements established under some land claims agreements, such as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the Nisga’a Final Agreement, and the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. This requires close collaboration to ensure efficient coordination of these processes.

Key risks: things that could affect our ability to achieve our plans and results

Key risks
Risks Risk response strategy Link to the department’s Core Responsibility Link to mandate letter commitments or to government-wide and departmental priorities

Impacts of economic activity

The Agency operates in a continuously changing environment influenced by external factors. In particular, the economic climate of a region affects the type, timing, volume and distribution of projects requiring environmental assessments.

The Agency maintains proactive relationships with proponents to forecast and plan its work to the extent possible.

The Agency reallocates resources, where possible, to address fluctuating workload distribution and develops strategies in collaboration with central agencies to meet its legislative responsibilities.

Environmental Assessment

Take the lead in implementing the government’s plan for a clean environment and a sustainable economy.

Managing engagement challenges

The Agency manages Indigenous consultation activities with potentially affected Indigenous Peoples during the environmental assessments of designated projects for which it is responsible, to fulfill the federal Crown's legal duty to consult. A lack of adequate consultation makes it difficult to ensure appropriate accommodation can be identified and implemented. A lack of adequate consultation may also be a source of regulatory uncertainty.

Each environmental assessment may give rise to the legal duty to consult. As such, the Agency integrates Indigenous consultation activities into the EA process to the extent possible, and identifies measures that can be included in a decision statement to address concerns, thereby supporting the federal Crown in meeting its legal duty to consult for the government actions associated with a project, and for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change or Government of Canada in exercising their environmental assessment related responsibilities.

When cooperative mechanisms such as substitution are undertaken with other jurisdictions, the Agency maintains responsibilities for the substantive aspects of consultation, but may delegate the procedural aspects of Indigenous consultation to the other jurisdiction.

The Indigenous component of the Participant Funding Program provides up to $3 million annually in financial assistance specifically for Indigenous groups to prepare for and participate in consultation activities associated with EAs undertaken by the Agency or by review panels.

Environmental Assessment

Improve relationship with, and outcomes for Indigenous Peoples.

Managing non-compliance

Proponent non-compliance with CEAA 2012, including non-compliance with conditions identified in decision statements could harm the environment and/or undermine public confidence.

Decision statements contain clear and measurable conditions, including mitigation measures and follow-up program requirements.

The Agency's Compliance and Enforcement Program promotes and verifies compliance and determines an appropriate response to situations involving non-compliance.

Environmental Assessment

Review Canada’s environmental assessment processes to regain public trust and help get resources to market and introduce new, fair processes that will, among other things, require project advocates to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.

Managing shared responsibility

Shared federal and provincial responsibility for environmental management leads to risks of duplication between federal and provincial EA processes.

This is an ongoing risk, as environmental management is an area of shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments under the Constitution Act, 1982. As a result, some projects may require both a federal and a provincial environmental assessment.

The Agency seeks to harmonize its environmental assessment process with other jurisdictions to achieve one project, one review. .

Environmental Assessment

Improved partnerships with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments are essential to deliver the real, positive change that we promised Canadians.

Restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction, while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication.

Managing IT priorities

The Agency is part of Shared Services Canada’s mandatory client base. The Agency shares the risks associated with the transformation of the IT infrastructure of the Government of Canada to a single consolidated infrastructure.

Ongoing active engagement with Shared Services Canada’s service delivery executives.

Inclusion of escalation process in all memoranda of understanding, service agreements and recovery agreements with Shared Services Canada.

Environmental Assessment

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Environmental assessment informs decision making in support of protecting our environment while supporting a strong economy and improving the quality of life of Canadians. The process ensures that potential adverse impacts on the environment are identified and eliminated, reduced or controlled before project decisions are made.

The Agency operates in a continuously changing environment influenced by external factors, including the economy, which can significantly affect the type, timing, volume, and distribution of projects requiring an environmental assessment. Accurately forecasting where and when resources will be most needed is an ongoing operational challenge.

In June 2017, the Government released a discussion paper proposing changes to environmental and regulatory processes. Consequently, the next phases of the review may result in changes to the Agency’s responsibilities requiring further adaptation to changing demands and resource requirements; these potential changes however are currently unknown. The Agency continues to support the Minister of Environment and Climate Change during the review while continuing to deliver on its current responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner.

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