Third-party Evaluation of the Implementation of the Cabinet Directive
Consistent with the government's strong commitment to sustainable development, ministers expect that policy, plan and program proposals of departments and agencies will consider, when appropriate, potential environmental effects. This is achieved through the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of new initiatives.
The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Cabinet Directive) and its accompanying Guidelines set out the responsibilities of federal departments and agencies and the expectations of ministers regarding SEA.
In response to a recommendation of the 2004 audit by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Government of Canada contracted a third-party evaluation of the implementation of the Cabinet Directive in advance of the upcoming review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The Government of Canada is addressing the issues identified in the evaluation by pursuing improvements to strengthen SEA in the following areas:
1. Clarify goals, objectives and outcomes of strategic environmental assessment
The Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive were updated in October 2010. The new Guidelines link SEA with the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) to ensure that the government’s broad environmental objectives are taken into account during the development of public policies and strategic decisions.
Departments and agencies are reviewing their guidance and systems to ensure they are responsive to the revised Guidelines.
2. Strengthen accountability
The revised Guidelines also strengthen accountabilities and emphasize transparency by including new public reporting requirements for SEA. This includes new reporting to Parliament on the results of SEAs and their impacts on the goals and targets of the FSDS through the Departmental Performance Reports.
3. Improve the quality and reaffirm the relevance of strategic environmental assessment
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) continues to work with departments and agencies to support their development of tailored approaches to improve the quality of SEA and ensure that resources are directed where they can have the most benefit. The Agency encourages an effective use of SEA that focuses the greatest effort and resources on proposals with an increased risk of resulting in important environmental effects, either positive or negative.
4. Continued improvement and capacity building
The Agency, in collaboration with an interdepartmental community of practice, is updating and developing new SEA guidance for practitioners that reflects the revisions to the Guidelines and provides further direction on key elements to promote effective and integrated SEA analysis in policy, plan and program proposals.
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