When the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development released its statutory seven-year review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) this March, both the NDP and Liberal Party issued dissenting reports. This was largely based on the grounds that several key points discussed during the hearings were absent from the final report. Among them, the view shared by industry witnesses that early environmental assessment, including public participation on the long-term social impacts of a project, assures that projects have the social license needed to move forward. Other concerns included that the recommendations made by the Committee could possibly lead to reduced public and Aboriginal consultation and increased ministerial powers, potentially over-riding scientific evidence and disrespecting stakeholder concerns.
These criticisms underscore the increasing recognition of the value of public consultation and the legitimacy of stakeholder input as part of the Environmental Assessment process. It is uncertain whether the concerns expressed in the dissenting reports were considered in the recently released federal budget. Hopefully our government’s plans to reduce the time needed for environmental assessments of major energy and industrial projects will not equate to less meaningful consultation programs.
The Committee’s review as well as the official dissenting reports can be found here.