A proposed new impact assessment system

A vision for impact assessment in the 21st century

What we are doing

The Government of Canada is bringing forward better rules for major projects to protect our environment, fish and waterways, and rebuild public trust in how decisions about resource development projects are made.

One of the key proposed changes is provide greater clarity and consistency by establishing the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (currently the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) to lead all federal reviews of major projects, working with other bodies like the new Canadian Energy Regulator (currently the National Energy Board), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Offshore Boards, and in cooperation with provinces and territories and Indigenous jurisdictions.

These better rules reflect values that are important to Canadians — including early, inclusive and meaningful public engagement; nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government partnerships with Indigenous peoples; timely decisions based on the best available science and Indigenous traditional knowledge; and sustainability for present and future generations.

Why we did this

The government promised to review environmental and regulatory processes to address concerns about previous reforms. The government put in place interim principles for project reviews in January 2016, then launched a comprehensive process in June 2016 to review existing laws and seek Canadians’ input on how to improve our environmental and regulatory system.

Improvements needed to the current system:

  • More transparency and certainty that decisions will be based on robust science, evidence and Indigenous traditional knowledge;
  • More and earlier opportunities for meaningful participation by Indigenous peoples and the Canadian public;
  • More Indigenous leadership opportunities and partnership in project review;
  • Impact assessment would look at all of a project’s impacts to foster sustainability, rather than only considering environmental factors;
  • More coordination with provinces to support one project one assessment and avoid duplication; and
  • More predictable and consistent timelines.

Infographic: Current system and proposed new system comparison

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Infographic

The proposed new system

A more efficient and predictable process. More timely decision-making.

Diagram: The proposed new system at a glance

Handbook

Handbook

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Figure one: The proposed new system at a glance
Description of the Diagram: The proposed new system at a glance

Step 1: Early Planning

(up to a max of 180 days)

Includes public participation and transparency, cooperation with jurisdictions, and engagement with Indigenous peoples.

Deliverables:

  1. Impact Assessment Cooperation Plan
    • Indigenous Engagement and Partnership Plan
    • Public Participation Plan
  2. Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines
  3. Permitting Plan

Step 2: Impact Statement

(proponent takes the time they need)

Includes public participation and transparency, cooperation with jurisdictions, and engagement with Indigenous peoples.

Deliverable: Impact Statement

Proponent prepares draft Impact Statement.

Agency reviews for conformity with Impact Statement Guidelines and posts on the Registry for public comment.

Step 3: Impact Assessment

Includes public participation and transparency, cooperation with jurisdictions, and engagement with Indigenous peoples.

Deliverable: Assessment Report

Led by the Agency
(up to a max of 300 days)

Agency assesses Impact Statement and prepares Impact Assessment Report.

OR

Led by Review Panel
(up to a max of 600 days)

Assessment by Review Panel or Joint Review Panel.

Step 4: Decision-Making

Deliverable: Decision Statement

Decision
(up to a max of 30 days)
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada determines public interest.

OR

Decision
(up to a max of 90 days)
Cabinet determines public interest.

Step 5: Follow-up, Monitoring, and Compliance and Enforcement

Includes public participation and transparency, cooperation with jurisdictions, and engagement with Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous and community monitoring committees, as needed.

Compliance and enforcement by Agency and Federal Authorities or by life-cycle regulator.

Note: Regional and strategic assessments would be proactively conducted outside of individual project reviews. This will help inform project assessments, manage cumulative impacts, and support decision-making.

Key features of the proposed new system

  • Proactive strategic and regional assessments would evaluate big-picture issues (e.g. climate change, biodiversity, species at risk), the cumulative effects of development and provide context for impact assessments.
  • An early planning and engagement phase for all projects would build trust, increase efficiency, improve project design, and give companies certainty about the next steps in the review process.
  • Indigenous engagement and partnership throughout the process.
  • Increased public participation opportunities.
  • Legislated timelines to provide clarity and regulatory certainty.
  • The legislated timeline for Agency led impact assessments would be reduced from 365 to a maximum of 300 days, and Panel reviews from 720 days (24 months) to a maximum of 600 days (20 months) due to efficiencies created through early planning and engagement. A more timely process would lead to more timely decisions.
  • Strengthened monitoring, follow-up, and enforcement:
    • Life-cycle regulators and permitting departments would work collaboratively with communities and Indigenous peoples to enhance monitoring, follow-up, and compliance.

Multi-Interest Advisory Committee

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change established the Multi-Interest Advisory Committee in August of 2016 to provide advice to her and to the Expert Panel established to review federal environmental assessment processes. In March 2018, the Minister extended the Committee’s mandate to continue to provide advice on the development of key regulatory and policy issues until the coming into force of the proposed Act.

Technical Guide

Technical Guide on the proposed new system

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Next steps

The proposed new Impact Assessment Act is currently undergoing review by Parliament.

Until the proposed legislation comes into effect, existing laws and interim principles for project reviews will continue to apply to projects under review.

Infographic: How laws and regulations are created

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Infographic

The government sought public comments from February 8 to June 1, 2018 to help inform the approach to developing two regulations to support the government’s proposed new Impact Assessment Act. Another consultation will take place in the fall on the regulatory proposals.

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