GLOBE-Net, March 29, 2012 - The federal
government is streamlining and simplifying the environmental
assessment process for major energy and industrial projects in
Noting that Canada's energy and natural resource industry is a
massive asset to the country, one that employs three-quarter of a
million Canadians, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in his Budget 2012 speech that the government intends
to reduce "red tape across government".
"The proposed legislation will establish clear timelines, reduce
duplication and regulatory burdens, and focus resources on large
projects where the potential environmental impacts are the
greatest," he added.
"We will implement responsible resource development and smart
regulation for major economic projects, respecting provincial
jurisdiction and maintaining the highest standards of environmental
protection," said the Finance Minister. "We will streamline the
review process for such projects, according to the following
principle: one project, one review, completed in a clearly defined
"The Government will propose legislation
to modernize the federal regulatory system that will establish
clear timelines, reduce duplication and regulatory burdens, and
focus resources on large projects where the potential environmental
impacts are the greatest." Finance Minister Jim
The government will focus on four major areas to streamline the
review process for major economic projects:
- Making the review process for major projects more
predictable and timely.
- Reducing duplication and regulatory burden.
- Strengthening environmental protection.
- Enhancing consultations with Aboriginal peoples.
Mining and resource companies and oil and gas firms in
particular have long complained about a lengthy regulatory and
environmental approval system that increases costs, risk and
uncertainty. Currently, companies undertaking major economic
projects must navigate a complex maze of regulatory requirements
Approval processes can be long and unpredictable. Delays and red
tape often plague projects with few environmental risks. Under the
current system, thousands of smaller projects with little or no
risk to the environment are caught up in the federal environmental
One example cited in the Budget documents is the NaiKun Wind Energy
Group proposal to develop a 396-megawatt offshore wind energy
project in Hecate Strait off the northeast shores of Haida Gwaii in
British Columbia. The company estimates that the project would have
a capital investment of $1.6 billion and would create up to 200
construction jobs. The federal decision to approve the process came
16 months after the provincial decision.
Other examples cited were an Enbridge proposal for a new
$2-billion pipeline connecting Hardisty, Alberta to Gretna,
Manitoba, approval of which came two years after the National
Energy Board's approval of the project, and construction of a
uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
says the current process discourages investment in oil and gas
projects and jeopardizes the competitiveness of the industry and
country. At a parliamentary hearing earlier this month,
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver called the current structure
"a needlessly complex, duplicative regulatory system".
Oliver says that system threatens up to half a trillion dollars
in potential Canadian investment over the next 10 years. In
2010, natural resource sectors employed over 760,000 workers in
communities throughout the country. In the next 10 years, more than
500 major economic projects representing over $500 billion in new
investments are planned acrossCanada.
In his budget speech, Flaherty referred to these potential
" The booming economies of the Asia-Pacific region are a huge
and increasing source of demand, but Canada is not the only country
to which they can turn. If we fail to act now, this historic window
of opportunity will close," he noted.
Responsibility for regulation of new projects in Canada is
shared by Ottawa and the provinces. In some areas, this means a
project must undergo duplicate assessments. In British Columbia,
the government has already moved to blend the federal-provincial
assessment process, but this is not the case in every
The federal government says the streamlining of regulations will
not alter processes that are strictly within provincial
jurisdictions, and will maintain "the highest standards of
Another area of concern related to the assessment of major
resource projects relates to consultations with Aboriginal groups
to ensure that their rights and interests are respected.
To support consultations with Aboriginal peoples related to
projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act,
the government proposes to add $13.6 million over two years to the
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for this purpose.
The Budget Speech and supporting documents are available here.
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