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A Summary of consultations in support of the Natural Resources Canada Sustainable Development Strategy 2007-2009—Achieving Results
OVERVIEW OF CONSULTATIONS
NRCan’s Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) functions as a strategic planning document which enables the integration of sustainable development (SD) into the planning and carrying out of departmental business. The concept of sustainable development is often described as a journey; NRCan’s SDS maps out a path of continuous improvement, guided by departmental stakeholders. This report summarizes the information exchanged during the 2006 stakeholder consultations for the Department’s fourth SDS, Achieving Results.
Since the 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act, NRCan has been among some thirty federal departments that have been required to prepare SDstrategies every three years. The Department’s first strategy, Safeguarding our Assets, Securing our Future (1997), focused on aligning the goals of the strategy with the goals of the Department, and developing a common performance measurement framework. The second strategy, Now and for the Future (2001), focused on developing time-bound, measurable targets, linking outcomes to actions and the third, Moving Forward (2004) articulated NRCan’s vision for a sustainable future and sought to address the threats to this vision through targeted commitments.
Early in the consultation process for this fourth strategy, it became clear that both internal and external stakeholders wished to see a more streamlined and focused document from NRCan in comparison to past SDstrategies. Senior management discussions supported this idea: they envisioned the strategy as articulating a few key priorities for the Department to pursue. Influenced by the input received, Achieving Results embodies NRCan’s streamlined approach towards the sustainable development of Canada’s natural resources over the next three years.
The purpose of this document is to provide a summary of information shared during the 2006 NRCan SDS consultation process. It includes general messages received from our stakeholders through both face-to-face meetings and a questionnaire. The front end of the document provides a summary of consultation mechanisms and activities, a brief overview of key messages and possible areas for action by the Department. Detailed meeting notes from each of the consultation sessions and Advisory Panel meetings comprise the bulk of this document, while additional analysis of the written responses received are presented in the appendices. All meeting notes appear in the language utilized during the meetings.
NRCan recognizes that the credibility of the Department’s strategy depends on a meaningful dialogue with stakeholders. Experience has demonstrated that undertaking such dialogue enables the Department to develop a common understanding of the issues among our stakeholders, as well as a sense of shared ownership of the strategy. With each strategy, NRCan works to improve the way in which it engages with stakeholders—this is an evolving process that is as important to the Department as the final SDS document.
The Department contacted key federal and provincial departments and agencies, municipalities, private industry, non-government and Aboriginal organizations, and industry associations to broaden the reach and breadth of input received in order to strengthen the credibility of the SDS. Implementation of a variety of engagement tools fostered a rich exchange of information, with stakeholders being generally supportive of the Department’s direction and efforts.
The Department released a discussion paper, Natural Resources Canada Sustainable Development Strategy 2006: Discussion Paper for Consultation, in April 2006. This paper served as the basis for the 2006 consultations. Guided by an environmental scan and the experience gained from Moving Forward, the discussion paper set out the current thinking around sustainable development, reviewed achievements to date of NRCan’s previous strategies, and discussed possible directions for the next SDS. Similar to the process that was applied in 2004, the discussion paper was developed with the intention of stimulating dialogue, provoking an exchange of ideas, and enabling the Department to verify the relevance of the proposed direction and focus of the strategy.
Consultation Mechanisms and Activities
NRCan was guided throughout the SDS process by an external advisory panel that represented a cross section of the Department’s stakeholders. The advisory panel served as a ‘sounding board’ at each stage in the process, by providing insight and guidance. For consistency between strategies, and to enable the Department to push beyond previous accomplishments, a number of 2003 advisory panel members participated in the 2006 process. An initial face-to-face meeting kicked off the Department’s SDS process, which was supplemented with teleconferences and subsequent electronic correspondence.
External multi-stakeholder meetings were held in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Halifax to solicit focused feedback from regional participants. In addition, NRCan participated with Industry Canada, Environment Canada, and Public Works and Government Services in coordinated sessions in Atlantic Canada organized by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
The discussion paper was also distributed to interested stakeholders by mail and was available to all Canadians on the NRCan Sustainable Development Web site, along with a brief questionnaire. Specific written input was solicited through a targeted mail out from the Deputy Minister of NRCan to relevant federal departments, provincial governments and key stakeholders who did not participate in the regional meetings held across the country.
Staff meetings and engagement
To capitalize on the vast expertise and experience of departmental employees, internal focus groups were held during the month of June 2006. Bilateral meetings and working groups were struck to develop SDS commitments in specific areas (e.g. operational targets). Additional employee input was solicited during Environment Week activities in the National Capital Region as well as sought from the Department’s ‘sustainable development ambassadors’—a network of employees who have completed NRCan’s internal policy capacity course for sustainable development.
Key messages from the SDS consultations
The Department received the following key messages during the course of its 2006 SDS consultation activities.
- Formal integration and collaboration among federal departments on the Sustainable Development Strategies (SDS) needs to occur. An overarching framework would facilitate clarity, efficacy and efficiency on federal SDS actions and results and would illustrate how each department could contribute to the larger goals or framework.
- NRCan was encouraged to make sure that its consultation processes are consistent and transparent.
- NRCan was encouraged to apply a focused, realistic approach that utilizes life-cycle thinking to promote an integrated and systems approach to making decisions. The approach should ensure the appropriate combination of environmental protection, economic prosperity and social stability.
- The Department was encouraged to ensure broad engagement of Aboriginal and First Nation communities both in the rural and urban context, because they have a key role to play in the management of natural resources. Their inclusion in this type of departmental process is both desirable and necessary.
- The Department was reminded of the important role public education plays in improving the public’s understanding of sustainable development. Canadians need to make a connection between the choices they make and their sustainable development impacts, in order for behavioral changes to occur.
- The time frame of the strategy should be longer-term and not just in the context of the legal requirements for tabling. Participants suggested that 20-30 years was appropriate, and that the strategy should have pragmatic actions, illustrate accomplishments in the immediate term and provide examples of early actions.
Possible Areas for Action by the Department
Stakeholders were generally supportive of the key result areas and the content of the discussion paper. Messages that were consistent throughout the consultations regarding the goals were:
Culture of Sustainability
- Greening of government operations was an area of action that questionnaire respondents encouraged NRCan to focus on.
- A number of questionnaire respondents encouraged the Department to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Potential actions include creating a renewable energy policy for Canada and re-developing an incentive program for energy efficiency for consumers.
- Establishing appropriate milestones and performance measurements was stressed by several participants and questionnaire respondents. The Department was encouraged to assess what we have achieved through our previous strategies, by ensuring we have measurable targets that are monitored and related to other departmental strategic documents.
- Questionnaire respondents saw a role for NRCan to expand our work on creating a culture of SDto include all Canadians, departments, and stakeholders. This work could include financial incentives for SDadoption. One respondent encouraged the Department to challenge other levels of government to match Canada’s commitment to greening operations.
- NRCan has as a significant role to play in supporting innovation and facilitating economic opportunities in Canada’s natural resource sectors. The Department is uniquely positioned to provide assistance in order to overcome technical and market barriers, minimize risks and spread costs among user groups in the various natural resource sectors.
- To ensure the competitiveness of Canada’s economy, the Department can lead on a number of varied initiatives, which could include: assisting with regulation and standard efficacy; reducing risk and market barriers for emerging technologies; or, even more specifically, by developing an all-source inclusive energy framework.
A Changing Environment
- NRCan was encouraged to demonstrate leadership on water, since it is a natural resource that cuts across all of the Department’s sectors as well as a number of other federal departments’ mandates; it was also noted that NRCan has a great deal of information to contribute regarding this resource.
- The strategy needs to focus its efforts on the convergence of mitigation and adaptation in its efforts to build resilience to climate change. It is key to the sustainability of Canada’s natural resources that our approach and efforts include both mitigation and adaptation considerations.
The ideas and key messages from the consultations were shared with NRCan’s Departmental Management Committee throughout the fall of 2006. The discussion paper provided a common starting point for all of the consultation activities. An adaptive approach was used to help focus consultations—results from previous activities were shared and used to inform and shape subsequent activities. Once regional notes were finalized, copies were provided to all members of the intradepartmental working group at NRCan in order that the input shared throughout the process could be absorbed by the various sectors within the Department. Consultation input influenced the overall direction and structure of this SDS, specifically the Issue Scan (Section I) and in the commitments that are found in Section II of Achieving Results.
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