Responsible Resource Development and related legislative, regulatory and policy improvements to modernize the regulatory system for project reviews


The proposed plan for Responsible Resource Development and related legislative, regulatory and policy actions advance four overarching objectives: more predictable and timely reviews; reduced duplication of project reviews; strengthened environmental protection; and, enhanced consultations with Aboriginal peoples.

To fully capture the benefits of Canada’s natural resources sector for all Canadians, this suite of actions will create a modern regulatory system to support economic growth and investment while protecting the environment and ensuring socially-responsible development. 

A whole-of-government approach involving partner departments and agencies of the Major Projects Management Office Initiative will support the implementation of these actions and ensure that key regulatory departments and agencies can deliver timely and effective reviews of major projects with the most potential for impact on the environment.

To modernize the federal regulatory system, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be repealed and a new Act will be brought into force, and the following Acts will be amended:  Fisheries Act; National Energy Board Act; Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act; Species at Risk Act; Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act

Summary of SEA Results

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, the environmental implications of the proposed plan for Responsible Resource Development and related policy and regulatory improvements were assessed by sponsoring departments and agencies during the development of the proposal.

The proposal to renew the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, enhance protection for fisheries and compliance under the Fisheries Act, and adopt new compliance mechanisms under the NEB Act areassociated with positiveenvironmental effects. Lead departments of each of the respective legislative proposals concluded that no other components of the proposal are likely to result in significant environmental effects, either positive or negative.

Environmental Effects (positive and negative)

The current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act does not serve the cause of environmental protection as well as it should.  There is currently no direct enforcement mechanism in place under the Act to ensure major economic projects, such as energy and mining projects, comply with mitigation measures required by environmental assessments.

In the federal government, accountability for environmental assessments rests with many different departments and agencies, with each organization having its own mandate, processes, information needs and timelines creating confusion, delay, and duplication.

In addition, resources are spread thin covering too many small routine projects, with little risk to the environment, at the expense of reviewing major projects that have the potential to affect the environment.

The proposed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEA Act) is likely to generate important positive environmental effects resulting from greater attention and resources placed on higher-risk projects, requirements for follow-up programs, earlier initiation of assessments, legally-binding decision statements, and more uniform enforcement provisions.

While many smaller, low-risk projects will no longer be subject to the formal environmental assessment process set out in the CEA Act, a robust regulatory framework exists to ensure potential gaps are addressed.  Moreover, only a very small proportion of these projects could eventually present a risk of important adverse environmental effects. Mitigation measures to address these risks were identified and incorporated into the proposal (see below).

The proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act will provide focused attention on managing threats to fish that are part of or support commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries, improved enforceability of conditions included in authorizations, improved penalty structures to support compliance, and expansion of inspection powers, all of which will result in improved fisheries protection.

Additional measures under the Responsible Resource Development plan that will strengthen environmental protection, include:

  • Increasing the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency so that it can conduct and complete high quality environmental assessments in a timely and predictable way;
  • Providing $13.5 million over 2 years to improve pipeline safety across Canada by enabling the National Energy Board to increase the number of inspections for oil and gas pipelines by 50%, from about 100 to 150 per year and double, from 3 to 6, the number of annual comprehensive audits in order to identify safety issues before they occur;
  • Providing funding of $35.7 million over 2 years to further strengthen Canada’s tanker safety regime, including ensuring appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness and response;
  • In certain confined Canadian waterways, tanker operators will be required to take a marine pilot with local knowledge on board before entering a harbour or busy waterway, and in special circumstances, more stringent measures may be taken.
  • New regulations enhancing the tanker inspection regime by strengthening vessel inspection requirements;
  • A review of handling processes for oil products by an independent panel of international tanker safety experts;
  • Improved navigational products, such as updated charts for shipping routes; and
  • In cooperation with provincial governments, allowing for greater use of regional environmental assessments to identify and address potential regional and cumulative effects, particularly in areas experiencing large-scale developments.

Enhancement, Mitigation and Follow-up Measures

The proposed plan for Responsible Resource Development would expand and improve the tools for enforcement and compliance in various departments and agencies responsible for environmental assessment and permitting.  The proposal contains several enhancements associated with the CEA Act, the Fisheries Act, the National Energy Board Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act

A core element of the new environmental assessment model is the use of a Project List (proposed Designating Physical Activities Regulations). As a result, smaller, routine projects will no longer be subject to the federal environmental assessment process. Only a small proportion of these could eventually present a risk of important adverse environmental effects. Mitigation measures to address these risks were identified and incorporated into the proposal. These include:

  • On federal lands, before smaller, routine projects can proceed, authorities are required to ensure that their actions do not cause significant adverse environmental effects.
  • For smaller projects outside federal lands, provincial and municipal planning, assessment and approval processes continue to apply. The federal environmental regulatory framework, where it applies to smaller, routine projects, will continue to mitigate adverse environmental effects on areas of federal jurisdiction.
  • The CEA Act would also authorize the Minister of the Environment to require an environmental assessment of any project not on the Project List because of the potential for adverse environmental effects or due to public concerns related to those environmental effects.

Other enhancement measures incorporated into the CEA Act include:

  • Regulations will provide clarity on the information that project proponents must include in a project description.
  • Legally enforceable environmental assessment decision statements that would ensure that proponents comply with required mitigation measures to protect the environment.
  • Mandatory follow-up programs for every listed project would confirm predictions of environmental impacts and determine if the proponent’s mitigation measures are working to protect the environment.
  • Environmental assessment will begin earlier in the project planning stage to influence project design so that adverse environmental effects are minimized.
  • Provision for the establishment of “committees” (with the powers of a review panel) to study effects of existing and future physical activities on a regional scale. Where resource potential is high, multiple projects and induced development can lead to cumulative environmental effects.  The Government and its provincial partners are working together to better manage cumulative environmental effects and have endorsed principles and methodological guidance for regional strategic environmental assessment.
  • Opportunities for public participation are provided. Interested parties will be able to intervene during the public hearing processes. This input will result in better information for decision-makers.

The proposed Fisheries Act amendments will provide focused attention on managing threats to fish that support commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries, increased enforceability of conditions included in authorizations, improved penalty structures to support compliance, and expansion of inspection powers, all of which will result in improved fisheries protection.

The proposed amendments will, for the first time, authorize the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the CEA Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the National Energy Board Act. The penalties are designed to address small contraventions quickly so that larger issues do not arise in the future.

In addition, the proposed Species at Risk Act amendments will result in improved compliance and environmental protection by introducing enforceable conditions for permits.

Results of Consultations

The government has received feedback from a wide range of stakeholders on the shortcomings of the current federal regulatory system including provincial governments, industry representatives, environmental groups and Aboriginal peoples.  Legislative and regulatory changes being brought forward are intended to take action on issues and proposals raised by a wide range of stakeholders in recent years.  The Parliamentary Review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (October 2011-March 2012) provided an opportunity for provincial, Aboriginal and stakeholder input.  Provinces, Aboriginal groups and stakeholders will be consulted further through subsequent regulatory and parliamentary processes. Concerns raised will be duly considered as the legislation, regulations and policy are implemented.

Individual projects will be subject to public scrutiny and a level of consultation that is required through the environmental assessment processes as per the CEA Act and/or other legislation, or contractual obligations, including those of other relevant levels of government.

Linkage to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

Future impacts of the proposed CEA Act on the goals and targets of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) cannot be fully measured in advance of implementation, but are expected to have a positive impact on their achievement.  By focusing assessment resources on projects with the potential for greater environmental risks, it is anticipated that the management of these risks will be improved. 

The Fisheries Act amendments support the FSDS in relation to the theme of Protecting Nature in support of Goal 6, Ecosystem/Habitat Conservation and Protection, and Goal 7, Biological Resources, in relation to sustainable fisheries.

It is expected that the proposed amendments to the Species at Risk Act will support Goal 5, Wildlife Conservation, of Theme III of the FSDS, through the leveraging of conservation actions as part of longer term authorizations, monitoring and reporting requirements and supporting adaptive management.

Under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the repeal and replacement of the existing Minor Works and Waters Ministerial Order by Regulations has minor implications for the achievement of Goal 3, Water Quality, and Goal 6, Ecosystem/Habitat Conservation and Protection. These classes of works and waters are exempted from the Navigable Waters Protection Act application process.  However, those classes are considered to be of low environmental risk.   

Relevant Links

For more information, please visit: 

Responsible Resource Development

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act