The federal government’s new Impact Assessment Act could be a game changer for ensuring short-term decision making does not undermine the long-term health of ecosystems and species. But in its current draft form, the Act is long on talk and short on action.
WCS Canada is one of eight major environmental groups that have jointly issued a report card on the bill that gives it a C grade. The report card notes that while the proposed Act touches on many of the basic requirements of next-generation EA – including a focus on sustainability, meaningful public participation, and greater attention to regional and strategic assessment – many important aspects are missing, including a failure to recognize Indigenous authority, lack of requirements to ensure sustainability in decisions or after assessments, limited scope for assessing smaller projects, and a lack of clear criteria and accountability for decision-making.
One of the biggest issues with the Act is its reliance on “optional” measures. For example, the Act allows for big-picture regional and strategic assessments to be conducted, but does not require them or even create a fund to pay for them. And while it’s important that Indigenous rights and social, economic, and gender impacts are included in the assessment process, there are no legal bottom lines – they are just “factors to be considered’ in the final decision.” The bill also doesn’t include specific requirements to reduce climate impacts.
Fortunately, the bill is still under review by a parliamentary committee, so there is still time to address these shortcomings. Make sure your MP sees our report card and talks to their party’s committee members about improvements.
Photo credits: Banner | William Halliday © WCS Canada