The planned investment value of major resource sector projects plunged $100 billion between 2017 and 2018, note Grant Bishop and Grant Sprague, authors of â€œA Crisis of Our Own Making: Prospects for Major Natural Resource Projects in Canada.â€ This plunge is equivalent to 4.5 percent of Canadaâ€™s gross domestic product.
With investment in Canadaâ€™s resources sector already depressed, the federal governmentâ€™s proposed Bill C-69 could further discourage investments by congesting the assessment process with wider public policy concerns and increasing political uncertainty. Proponents of major projects may perceive additional political risks because of a lower threshold to trigger political decision-making and a highly subjective standard for project approval.
â€œThe crowding of policy debates â€“ for example, over Canadian policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions â€“ into project-specific determinations risks significantly prolonging the assessment process and exacerbating uncertainty for project proponents,â€ say Bishop and Sprague.
The report recommends the federal government:
- Specify clear criteria for assessing projects that can be applied in a consistent and timely manner.
- Preserve the role of â€œlifecycleâ€ regulators (i.e., the National Energy Board/Canadian Energy Regulator and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) in leading assessments.
- Require a projectâ€™s adverse effects be found â€œsignificantâ€ before involving political decision-makers.
- Ensure review panels can focus on relevant submissions by maintaining an appropriate standard for participation in hearings.
- Update guidance for federal officials to ensure consistent consultation of Indigenous peoples â€“that satisfies the past decade of case law on the duty to consult.
- Compile and annually report on timelines for federal environmental assessments across major projects in Canada compared to other countries.
â€œMany projects in Canada have faced environmental assessments that take much longer than in comparator jurisdictions,â€ note Bishop and Sprague. â€œCanadian timelines for mining projects are substantially longer than in Australia, and Canadian pipeline approvals are protracted relative to those in the United States.â€