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2010/26

Draft Notes for a Remarks by

The Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Natural Resources

at the

2010 Annual Conference

of the

Canadian Association of Members of Public Utility Tribunals
(CAMPUT)

Montreal, Canada
May 4, 2010

 

Check against delivery


Introduction

Thank you very much, Gaétan [Gaétan Caron, Chair, National Energy Board] for the kind introduction, and good afternoon everyone.

I want to thank the Association of Public Utility Tribunals for its invitation.  It is an honour to be here and speak at this conference.

My remarks today will focus on Canada’s resource sector and our progress with improving the performance of Canada’s regulatory system — a matter of some interest to this organization. 

Now is the time

As you all know, we’re in a period of transition in the global economy.

The recession has caused a major re-think of the way we’ve been doing things so far — we must go beyond managing the immediate impacts of the downturn and make sure we are in a position to compete and to succeed as the markets continue to come back.

Positioning Canada for long-term success has been the focus of our government from the beginning — and part of that is creating a regulatory system that will ensure Canada’s resource sector continues to be an attractive place to invest.

The good news is that economic recovery is occurring faster here than in most other countries.  However, we also know that over $300 billion of potential investment in resources projects still hangs in the balance in the next decade.

To position Canada for long-term success, our government believes that it’s time to roll up our sleeves to create better, more efficient regulatory processes — regulation that will encourage investment; that will help build a great economy for Canada, while protecting the environment. 

Existing challenges

For some time, provinces and stakeholders have been seeking more predictable and timely regulatory processes.  We have heard from them that:

  • timelines for environmental assessments and permitting have been unpredictable;
  • accountability for the process has been diffuse;
  • there is duplication among jurisdictions; and
  • approaches to Aboriginal consultation have been inconsistent.

Our Government is aware of these challenges and has already taken concrete actions to improve the situation. 

MPMO

As an example, two years ago it established the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO) to provide overarching management of regulatory reviews. 

With the MPMO, we have a level of governance and tools that simply did not exist before and we are seeing real traction across departments towards addressing systemic challenges. Through the Initiative:

  •  projects are monitored and tracked and Deputy Ministers receive weekly performance updates;
  •  aggressive service standards are in place — to move us from a four-year to a two-year average, and these timelines are integrated into Project Agreements signed by Deputy Heads;
  •  guidelines have been developed to improve clarity, advance timeliness and ensure a coordinated approach to regulatory reviews; and
  •  a “whole-of-government” approach to Aboriginal consultations is being established that emphasizes the importance of engaging Aboriginal stakeholders in a meaningful way, and doing it early in the process.

All of these improvements are leading to a better managed and more effective system.

In addition, federal regulatory departments have been working with the MPMO to implement new approaches to the administration of their regulatory responsibilities. 

For example, to reduce process duplication and overlap, departments have used existing provisions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that allow for delegation of the environmental assessment process to other jurisdictions.

Under this model, two delegation agreements have been signed with British Columbia – one for the Northwest Transmission Line project, and another for the Line Creek Coal Mine Expansion project. 

Our progress to date is a really important start.  But going forward, more work is needed to continue these important improvements.

Speech from the Throne

Most recently, the Speech from the Throne committed the Government to implementing simpler, clearer processes that improve environmental protection and provide greater certainty to industry.

It stepped up its commitment to the responsible development of our energy and mineral resources, while improving — not weakening — environmental protection.

Budget 2010

Through Budget 2010, our government is advancing immediate actions required to address shortcomings in the regulatory system to position Canada for long-term growth and job creation.

Budget 2010 proposed targeted amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.  These changes will improve the way we deliver environmental assessments in Canada allowing assessments to start sooner, reduce delays and duplication, and result in better assessments overall.

In cases where an environmental assessment is to be conducted by a public review panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) — both associate members of this association — will fulfil this requirement for projects falling under their respective areas of expertise.  They will do this by using their public hearings processes.

The NEB and CNSC have a long history of conducting environmental assessments under the Environmental Assessment Act in an open and transparent forum.  In fact, the NEB and the CNSC consider environmental protection in all of their proceedings.

In short, the requirements of the CEA Act will continue to be met.  The environmental assessment process will include consideration of the factors under the CEA Act.  Furthermore, the quality and public accessibility to the environmental assessment will be enhanced.

Budget 2010 also announced the establishment of Participant Funding Programs for the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission .

The establishment of Participant Funding Programs within these organizations will ensure more timely and meaningful engagement of all Canadians, including the public, stakeholders and Aboriginal peoples.

Together these innovations will reduce duplication and overlap and provide Canadians with a process that is easier to understand and allowing everyone involved to focus on results instead of process.

Let me emphasize: We are maintaining high environmental standards while eliminating needless duplication.

This Government is committed to putting in place a regulatory regime that continues to protect the environment, encourages investment by providing greater certainty to industry, and supports sustainable development.

We simply cannot afford to waste our resources or hinder Canada’s economic recovery because of processes that are unnecessarily cumbersome. 

These changes are positive first steps towards improving the current system.

The intention is to build on these improvements as the Government of Canada explores further opportunities to move towards our objective of “one project, one review” process.

In the meantime, I am confident these changes will deliver solid benefits for the economy and environment as we continue to explore options for more fundamental change. 

So — you may ask — if things are moving forward so well, why am I here?

CAMPUT involvement

I’m here because we need the active support of those with advanced expertise in regulatory systems and reform.  And that means, of course, the Canadian Association of Members of Public Utility Tribunals (CAMPUT).

Although we have been consulting widely on regulatory reform, we need the active support of those who have particular expertise in regulatory systems and know what they’re talking about.

As I said earlier, much weighs in the balance. 

Among nations, Canada has enormous potential to move quickly beyond the effects of the recession — to leap ahead with improved productivity and competitiveness. 

The next decade will be critical to our longer-term future.  Today, we are laying the foundation for future success while putting in place measures to ensure continued economic prosperity and environmental progress for our country.  

Conclusion

I encourage members of this Association to continue their innovative efforts in contributing to regulatory reform — to provide governments with sound advice — and give us the benefit of your expertise.

In closing, I thank you for your invitation, and wish you well in this important annual conference.

Thank you.