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Consistent with the government's strong commitment to sustainable development, ministers expect that policy, plan and program proposals of departments and agencies will consider, when appropriate, potential environmental effects.
More specifically, ministers expect a strategic environmental assessment of a policy, plan or program proposal to be conducted when the following two conditions are met:
Departments and agencies are also encouraged to conduct strategic environmental assessments for other policy, plan or program proposals when circumstances warrant. An initiative may be selected for assessment to help implement departmental or agency goals in sustainable development, or if there are strong public concerns about possible environmental consequences.
Ministers expect the strategic environmental assessment to consider the scope and nature of the likely environmental effects, the need for mitigation to reduce or eliminate adverse effects, and the likely importance of any adverse environmental effects, taking mitigation into account. The strategic environmental assessment should contribute to the development of policies, plans and programs on an equal basis with economic or social analysis; the level of effort in conducting the analysis of potential environmental effects should be commensurate with the level of anticipated environmental effects. The environmental considerations should be fully integrated into the analysis of each of the options developed for consideration, and the decision should incorporate the results of the strategic environmental assessment. Departments and agencies should use, to the fullest extent possible, existing mechanisms to involve the public, as appropriate. Departments and agencies shall prepare a public statement of environmental effects when a detailed assessment of environmental effects has been conducted through a strategic environmental assessment. This will assure stakeholders and the public that environmental factors have been appropriately considered when decisions are made.
The Government of Canada is committed to the goal of sustainable development. Decision makers at all levels must be able to take economic, social and environmental considerations into account in order to make informed decisions in support of sustainable development.
The environmental assessment of policy, plan and program proposals is referred to as strategic environmental assessment. It seeks to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies and strategic decisions. Strategic environmental assessment also serves to strengthen accountability and provide greater public confidence that federal government decisions are being made in full awareness of the potential environmental impact.
Through strategic environmental assessment, environmental considerations can be addressed at the earliest appropriate stage of planning, along with economic and social considerations.
By addressing potential environmental considerations when developing policy, plan and program proposals, departments and agencies will be better able to:
This document has been prepared to provide guidelines for federal departments and agencies on implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.
The Directive represents the official policy on strategic environmental assessment of the Government of Canada. As such, all Government of Canada departments and agencies that are developing policy, plan and program proposals are obligated to implement the Directive consistent with these guidelines. Central agencies, including the Privy Council Office, the Department of Finance and the Treasury Board Secretariat, are committed to work with federal departments and agencies during the development of these Cabinet documents to ensure that the Directive has been fully considered.
This document will assist:
Departments and agencies are encouraged to develop supplementary guidance to support their specific requirements.
The following guidelines summarize the roles and responsibilities of the major participants in the strategic environmental assessment process.
When a proposal is submitted to Cabinet, ministers are collectively responsible for ensuring that decisions are taken with full consideration to the environmental implications of the proposed initiative.
It is the responsibility of the sponsoring minister or ministers to ensure that the environmental implications of the proposed initiative are fully reflected in the proposal.
In performing their duties:
The Minister of the Environment has a leadership role in establishing the environmental framework for Canada and in promoting the application of strategic environmental assessment to proposals.
Officials are responsible for ensuring that environmental considerations are properly integrated into the development of proposals. When a proposal is presented for decision by a minister, officials will ensure that, when appropriate, an assessment of potential environmental effects of the proposed initiative is completed for each option presented. Officials will consult, as appropriate, with other departments and agencies with relevant mandates and expertise to assist them in assessing the environmental implications of their policy, plan and program proposals.
Departmental and agency officials are responsible for reporting on their strategic environmental assessments of policies, plans, and programs in their Departmental Performance Reports.
Environment Canada will provide departments and agencies upon request with expert policy, technical and scientific analysis and advice on sustainable development and the potential environmental effects of initiatives.
In support of the Minister of the Environment, the Agency will promote the application of strategic environmental assessment to policy, plan and program proposals of the federal government. In consultation with other departments and agencies, it will provide guidance and training to improve the implementation of strategic environmental assessment.
Under the Auditor General Act and the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Commissioner is tasked with overseeing the government's efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainable development. The Commissioner's office will hold government accountable for greening its policy, operations and programs and will review progress in the implementation of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
In implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, departments and agencies should be guided by the following principles.
Early integration - The analysis of environmental considerations should be fully integrated into the development of a policy, plan or program. To support sound decision making that is consistent with the principles of sustainable development, the consideration of environmental effects should begin early in the conceptual planning stages of the proposal, before irreversible decisions are made. In this way, strategic environmental assessment can support the analysis of options and identify issues that may require further consideration.
Examination of alternatives - A critical aspect of any strategic environmental assessment is the opportunity to evaluate and compare the environmental effects of alternatives in the development of a new policy, plan or program. This comparison will help identify how modifications or changes to the policy, plan or program can reduce environmental risk.
Flexibility - Departments and agencies have discretion in determining how they conduct strategic environmental assessments. They are encouraged to adapt and refine analytical methodologies and tools to address their particular circumstances.
Self-assessment - Each department and agency is responsible for applying strategic environmental assessment to its proposed policies, plans and programs as appropriate; determining how a strategic environmental assessment should be conducted; carrying it out; and reporting on the findings.
Appropriate level of analysis - The scope of the analysis should be commensurate with the level of anticipated environmental effects.
Accountability - Strategic environmental assessment should be part of an open and accountable decision-making process within the federal government. Accountability should be promoted through the involvement of affected individuals and organizations, when appropriate, and through documentation and reporting mechanisms.
Use of existing mechanisms - In conducting a strategic environmental assessment, departments and agencies should use existing mechanisms to conduct any analysis of environmental effects, involve the public if required, evaluate performance and report the results. Existing reporting mechanisms should also be used to issue statements of environmental effects.
Under the Cabinet Directive, ministers expect a strategic environmental assessment of a proposal to be conducted when the following two conditions are met:
All strategic environmental assessments should be conducted in a timely and thorough manner. Best efforts should be made by departments and agencies to anticipate the need for and complete a strategic environmental assessment well in advance of the completion of a policy, plan or program proposal.
Departments and agencies are also encouraged to conduct strategic environmental assessments for other selected policy, plan and program proposals as circumstances warrant. An initiative may be selected for assessment to help implement the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, or if there are strong public concerns about possible environmental consequences.
The general guidelines presented here are based on current, proven good practices within federal departments and agencies.
A strategic environmental assessment must be a written or documented process that follows the elements below. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency can provide additional assistance and support to departments and agencies in the development of their strategic environmental assessments.
The guidelines are:
The application of the Cabinet Directive involves a multi-step process:
A preliminary scan screens proposals for potential, important environmental effects, which can be either positive or negative. If important environmental effects are identified, a strategic environmental assessment is required.
As early as possible in the development of a proposal, departments and agencies are responsible for determining whether important environmental effects are likely to arise from implementing the proposed policy, plan or program. The focus should be on identifying strategic considerations at a relatively general or conceptual level, rather than evaluating quantitative, detailed environmental impacts, as in a project-level assessment.
In conducting the scan, departments and agencies are responsible to:
If the preliminary scan identifies the potential for important environmental effects (refer to the definition of "environmental effects" in Appendix A), or if there is a high level of uncertainty or risk associated with the outcome, then an analysis of the environmental effects should be conducted through a strategic environmental assessment.
If the scan does not identify the potential for important environmental effects, no further analysis of environmental effects is required.
To conduct a scan of the proposal, the analyst may use a variety of tools, including matrices, checklists and experts available within the department and from other departments. In conducting a preliminary scan, departments and agencies will determine whether:
Strategic environmental assessment is not an add-on process, but one linked with the ongoing economic and social analyses underway. An effective strategic environmental assessment cannot be done in isolation or after the fact. The analysis of the environmental considerations should be undertaken on an iterative basis throughout the policy development process and be fully integrated into the analysis of each of the options developed so that the consequences of alternative proposals can be compared. The final recommendation should be informed by the results of the strategic environmental assessment.
The strategic environmental assessment should address the following considerations and questions.
There may be policy, plan or program proposals for which no strategic environmental assessment will be required. These special cases are:
Factors that should assist analysts in assessing potential environmental effects and gauging the appropriate level of detail in the analysis include the following:
Departments and agencies are encouraged to develop their own sources of information and analytical tools such as relevant literature; previous strategic environmental assessments of policy, plan or program proposals; expert advice from other branches within the department and from other expert federal departments; checklists; matrices and modeling; scenario building; and simulation analysis.
The analysis of potential environmental effects should indicate, where appropriate, concerns about these effects among those likely to be most affected, as well as among other stakeholders (that is, those with an interest in the policy) and the public. Through the involvement of interested parties, decision makers can, at an early stage, identify and address public concerns about a proposal that could otherwise lead to delays or the need for further analysis later in the process. Stakeholders and the public can be an important source of local and traditional knowledge about likely environmental effects.
Sources of information on public concerns could include:
The involvement of the public in the strategic environmental assessment process should be commensurate with public involvement on the overall development of the proposal itself and should make use of any public involvement activities that may be underway. If public documents are prepared for use in a consultation exercise, it is advisable to incorporate them into the results of the strategic environmental assessment to address potential environmental concerns.
Reporting is important to ensure that the process is open and accountable. For a policy, plan or program that is approved or announced, departments and agencies shall prepare a public statement of environmental effects, including impacts on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's goals and targets, when a strategic environmental assessment has been conducted. Departments and agencies are also encouraged to prepare a public statement of preliminary scans.
Departments will determine the content and extent of the public statement according to the circumstances of each case. The purpose of the statement is to demonstrate that environmental factors have been integrated into the decision-making process. Public statements should be integrated into existing reporting mechanisms to the fullest possible extent.
For some proposals, such as those involving significant adverse effects or serious public concerns, departments and agencies may choose to release a public document that discusses the environmental effects in detail, in addition to any public statement of environmental effects. This document will help demonstrate that environmental factors have been integrated into the decision-making process.
Departments and agencies are responsible for reporting on the extent and results of their strategic environmental assessment practices in their Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports. This reporting should include a description in the Departmental Performance Reports of how plans, programs and policies subject to strategic environmental assessment have affected or are expected to affect progress towards the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's goals and targets. For more information on reporting requirements, departments and agencies should refer to Treasury Board guidance to departments on Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports.
When a strategic environmental assessment has been completed for a policy, plan or program proposal departments and agencies will report on the results through Departmental Performance Reports and any of the following:
The strategic environmental assessment should be forwarded to:
Any disclosure of information will be subject to existing legislation, regulations and policies governing the release of information.