Overview: Cooperation Plan
The Government of Canada is committed to the principle of “one project, one assessment” for projects subject to the federal Impact Assessment Act (the Act) and the review processes of one or more jurisdictions. The Impact Assessment Act requires for all projects subject to an impact assessment that the Impact Assessment Agency (the Agency) develop an Impact Assessment Cooperation Plan that describes how the Agency will cooperate with other jurisdictions. These plans aim to satisfy the requirements and objectives of the Impact Assessment Act and the participating provincial, territorial and/or Indigenous jurisdictions to reduce duplication, increase efficiency and certainty, and draw on the best available expertise. Cooperation plans will be developed with other jurisdictions during the planning phase setting out how the jurisdictions plan to cooperate during the impact assessment process of a specific project.
Timeline for Completion
Pursuant to subsection 18(1) of the Impact Assessment Act, when providing the proponent with a Notice of Commencement, the Agency must also provide the proponent with any documents specified by regulations created under paragraph 112(1)(a) of the Act. This must include a copy of the Impact Assessment Cooperation Plan, to be provided within 180 days after the day on which the Initial Project Description of the project is posted on the Agency’s online Registry. As a result, the development of the cooperation plan is initiated early in the planning phase.
Application and Limitations
Pursuant to the Impact Assessment Act, cooperation may take different forms:
- Coordinated impact assessment in which the jurisdictions do such things as share information and analysis, have joint working groups or public engagement, coordinate guidance to proponents, and which may include the delegation by the Agency of the carrying out of any part of the impact assessment and the preparation of the impact assessment report to another jurisdiction;
- Substitution allows the federal government to rely on another jurisdiction’s assessment process to provide the information needed to support the federal government in making its decision related to a project; and
- Joint review panels in which the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) would enter into an agreement with another jurisdiction to jointly establish a review panel to undertake an assessment of a project.
For the activities covered by each of the planning phase documents, there is a range of cooperation opportunities — from information sharing to aligning activities and/or key milestones to preparing joint plans and undertaking activities jointly. The cooperation plan and the other planning documents required under the Impact Assessment Act will reflect cooperation commitments.
For impact assessments referred to a review panel or a joint review panel with another jurisdiction, the cooperation plan may be used to inform the terms of reference of a review panel or joint review panel and any arrangements made in support of the assessment by the review panel.
In a substituted process, a cooperation plan is not required; however, the Agency would still work with the other jurisdiction to set out in a publically available document how the Agency and other federal entities would participate in the assessment process of the other jurisdiction, including the opportunities for input by federal authorities in possession of relevant specialist or expert information. Before another jurisdiction requests substitution of the impact assessment of a specific project, the Agency expects that the other jurisdiction and the Agency will have developed an agreement that sets out the expectations and procedural elements for substituting assessments. Should an agreement not be in place, the Agency would work with the other jurisdiction to put in place a project-specific agreement, which would provide part of the basis for the Minister to consider approving the request.
A cooperation plan does not change any existing Indigenous, federal or provincial legislative or regulatory jurisdiction, right, power, privilege, prerogative or immunity by virtue, nor does it create any new legal powers, duties or legally binding obligations.
For a given project, there may be more than two cooperating jurisdictions, for example the Agency, a province and an Indigenous Jurisdiction, or the Agency and two provinces. The cooperation plan would be developed with the cooperating jurisdictions, capturing the interests of each jurisdiction in cooperating in specific elements of the assessment process and reflecting the terms of any existing Cooperation Agreement(s).
Contents of a Cooperation Plan
Cooperation plans will include the following sections, as appropriate:
- Provides context to the cooperation plan, including identifying the project, the cooperating jurisdiction(s) and its regulatory authority, and reference to existing Cooperation Agreement(s).
2. Project Scope
- Includes a summary of the project’s components and activities and explains whether the scope of the project under review is consistent between the Agency and the other jurisdiction or, if different, identifies key differences in the scope.
3. Approach to Cooperation
- High-level description of the cooperative mechanism being employed (e.g. coordination or delegation, or, if the Minister has made the decision, substitution or joint review panel).
4. Gathering and Review of Proponent Information
- Provides a description of factors to be considered in the Impact Assessment by the Agency and by the other jurisdiction, and identifies key commonalities and differences.
- Describes cooperation related to the review of proponent information.
5. Timelines and Time Management
- Provides an overview of the estimated timeline for the Impact Assessment and the assessment by the other jurisdiction, including harmonization of timelines using legislative authorities where possible.
- Sets out plans and/or commitments to align key milestones and specific activities in the assessment process.
6. Sharing of Information
- Identifies the type of information to be exchanged.
7. Public Participation (and Participant Funding)
- Identifies plans for coordination of public notices and engagement activities, cross-posting of materials to online registries and, where relevant, coordination regarding participant funding.
8. Indigenous Consultation and Engagement
- Identifies plans for coordinated consultation and engagement activities.
9. Decision Statement
- Identifies plans to coordinate on the development of conditions of approval and to align timeline on final decisions.
- Explains that the cooperation plan is not a legal document and does not change any legal powers or duties.
11. Contact Information
- Provides contact information for the officials at the Agency and the other jurisdiction responsible for administering the cooperation plan.
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