Streamlining the EA process

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Businesses continue to be discouraged in the absence of any concrete steps towards unifying Canada’s patchwork of requirements for environmental assessments (EA). Overlapping responsibilities between provincial, territorial and federal levels of government, not to mention competing agencies at all levels, have predictably produced unbearable delays in the regulatory process. Making matters worse at the municipal level, land use planning and EA processes lack proper coordination, which causes long delays.

Without a doubt, the dream of a “one project-one assessment” approach to conducting environmental assessments across Canada has still a ways to go. But as this Bennett Jones update argues, there are signs of promise, particularly in the energy and mining sectors. Indeed, renewed efforts by a CCME task force is proposing some recommendations for a harmonized approach to make decisions on projects.

And at the federal level, the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO), an agency that falls under the purview of Natural Resources Canada was established in 2007 to support Ottawa’s new approach to the regulatory review of major resource projects. The hope is that this new approach will ensures a more timely and accountable review process.

As the Globe and Mail recently reported, Alberta, with some prodding from the oil sands industry, is (albeit controversially) considering lowering the regulatory burden for companies looking for approvals for certain types of projects.

As for the construction industry and the roll-out of infrastructure stimulus money, well, the timing of Montreal’s latest mess couldn’t have come at a worse time.