question period — Environment and Climate Change

Strategic Assessment of Climate Change

March 10, 2020


[14:53]

Honourable senators, my question is to the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, I want to better understand the government’s position on an important aspect of the implementation of the new Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act. For the first time in federal history, these laws make it mandatory to consider the extent to which reviewed projects will “hinder or contribute” to meeting Canada’s climate change commitments when deciding whether to approve or reject projects.

For nearly three years, experts have said that a strategic assessment of climate change in the context of project assessment is urgent. This is a major unresolved issue in Canada that results in conflicts around specific projects, something of which the proponents of Teck’s Frontier mine reminded us recently.

The government has produced an in-house draft Strategic Assessment of Climate Change. According to Professor Robert Gibson from the University of Waterloo, “the draft document is mis-presented as a strategic assessment”, and its “approach reflects the politics of accommodating the most powerful current stakeholders rather than the imperatives of even-handed and transparent analysis”.

Can you please explain the process that will assure Canadians that the assessment will be realistic, independent, evidence-based and transparent?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[14:55]

Thank you, senator, for the question. As I’m sure the senator knows, the Strategic Assessment of Climate Change, when it is finalized later this year, is supposed to provide guidance for the federal impact assessment process to enable consistent, predictable, efficient and transparent reviews. Since July 2018, the government has been developing this strategic assessment document in consultation with the provinces and territories, as well as members of the general public.

I don’t know exactly what will be in the document, but I have been advised that the government remains committed to transparent, evidence-based environmental assessments that protect the environment, foster economic growth and jobs and serve the public interest.

As well, even beyond the strategic assessment document, the legislative framework in Bill C-69, which I think the senator knows far better than I do, was designed to make impact assessments more transparent and more protective of the environment, to advance reconciliation and to encourage transparency.

Thank you for the question.

[14:56]

Senator Gold, this strategy is especially urgent given that this first draft is being used in the context of projects being assessed under the new law. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada cites it, among other documents, in its guidelines for the Gazoduq project, a proposed shale gas pipeline about 780 kilometres long that could go through Quebec. When will the final version of the strategy and the related information be made public and available to Canadians?

Senator Gold
[14:56]

If I understand the question, there is a process that’s still under way with respect to this project, and as soon as it’s completed, the information will be published and made available to the public.