ENVI Committee, March 22: Is this the minimum level of federal review as required by the Minister’s mandate letter?

Elizabeth May

I want to start by thanking Darren and other Liberal members of the committee who agreed to allow me to put a question to the minister.

I thank both ministers for being here.

Preparing for this morning, I reviewed your mandate letters and found that the Prime Minister used identical language in the letter to Minister Carr and Minister McKenna on the subject before us today.

I’m going to read it into the record that you are to “…restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessment of areas under federal jurisdiction”. To determine what areas of federal jurisdiction will be recipients of this review, and robust oversight, I turn to the recommendations of the final report at the expert panel, in which the expert panel, under findings and recommendations at page 18 says the following:
Federal IA should be only be conducted on a project, plan, or policy that has clear links to matters of federal interest. These federal interests include, at a minimum, federal lands, federal funding and federal government as proponent, as well as…”

In the interest of time, I won’t read out the 11 sub-categories, but they’re all important: species at risk, fish, marine plants, indigenous peoples and lands, and so on.

My question, particularly to Minister McKenna since the IA portion of the legislation is under her name, is whether she agrees with the high-level panel that this is the minimum level of federal review as required by her mandate letter.

Catherine McKenna – Minister for Environment and Climate Change Canada

I want to thank you, Ms. May, for all your advocacy and all your work over the years. I know you care greatly about the environment, but in particular about environmental assessments.

We certainly took the input of the expert panel. We received a lot of other input as well.

The goal of environmental assessments—now we’re calling them impact assessments—is to make sure you’re considering the projects that will have a significant impact on the range of factors.

There was a proposal to have them on any federal funding, but the impact could be that you could have very small works because there was a tie to federal funding that would necessarily trigger a review. We think that our focus has hit the right…. We’re consulting on the project list, but we think we should focus on federal impact assessments on projects that have the most potential for adverse effects in areas of federal jurisdiction related to the environment.