2018-2019 Departmental Results Report: Operating context and key risks

Operating context

The Agency operates in a continuously changing environment impacted by external factors such as markets and the socio-economic climate affecting the type, timing, volume and distribution of projects 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 (EA) supported this priority by providing decision-makers with information that demonstrated how potential adverse impacts on the environment (within federal jurisdiction) could be eliminated, reduced or controlled through the application of mitigation measures.

The Agency ensures that opportunities are provided for meaningful public participation. For example, the Agency administers a Participant Funding Program, which supports individuals, non-profit organizations and Indigenous groups interested in participating in federal EAs. Public participation in federal EAs ensured an open, balanced process and strengthened the quality and credibility of project reviews under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).

As environmental management is an area of shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments, some projects may require both a federal and a provincial EA. Under CEAA 2012, EAs could be coordinated so that a single EA met the legal requirements of both jurisdictions. A responsible authority could delegate the conduct of an EA, in whole or in part, to another jurisdiction.

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 were integrated into all EAs conducted by the Agency and by review panels under CEAA 2012. The EA process established under the CEAA 2012 coexisted with other impact assessment requirements established under some land claims agreements, such as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the Northeastern Quebec Agreement, the Nisga’a Final Agreement, Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Close collaboration was required to ensure efficient coordination of these processes.

The Agency carried out gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) on projects that required a Governor-in-Council decision as to whether the significant adverse environmental effects were justified in the circumstances. GBA+ analysis allows for a better understanding of the impact of projects on communities and different groups of individuals. It is an important tool in fulfilling the government’s commitment to gender equality and to ensure inclusive outcomes for Canadians.

The Agency revised its organizational structure to address its increased responsibilities under the new Act, particularly in areas such as social, economic, health and gender-based impact analysis, as well as expanded capacity and deliverables regarding Indigenous and public engagement.

Key risks
Risks Risk response strategy and effectiveness Link to department’s Core Responsibilities Link to mandate letter commitments and any government-wide or departmental priorities (as applicable)

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 EAs.

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 EAs 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 EA 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 EA 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 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, provincial and territorial 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 EA.

The Agency seeks to strengthen cooperation with provinces and territories through better coordination and alignment of impact assessment timelines and processes.

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

Internal Services

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