Strengthening environmental reviews of major projects
Major project reviews require expertise, public dialogue and common sense – organized by rules and procedures that sustain a balance among these factors.
Early in its mandate, the Liberal government committed to make substantial improvements to Canada’s system of environmental assessment, in order to regain public trust in how major projects are considered and approved. Specifically, it undertook to restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments; ensure that decisions are based on science, facts and evidence, and serve the public’s interest; and provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate.
Until 2012, Canada had a system of federal environmental review that did all of those things, more or less well. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (1992), as modified over time by judicial decisions, policy and practice, provided for reasonably open and effective environmental assessment of major projects. Much was accomplished during that 20-year period, but much also remains to be done to ensure that the current government’s stated objectives are effectively realized.