Earlier today, Canadian Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna released for public comment the expert report she received on reforming Canada’s environmental assessment processes.
Gowling WLG partner Rod Northey was one of four panelists who authored the report, entitled Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada.
Since the minister announced this initiative in August 2016, Northey and his co-panelists have consulted with stakeholders nationwide — including industry associations, environmental groups, First Nations communities and organizations, residents, scientists and other experts.
“After travelling across the country to listen to interested Canadians, the panel worked incredibly hard to reconcile diverse perspectives and propose something that will benefit all impact assessment participants,” said Northey.
At the heart of the 124-page report is a comprehensive new vision for federal environmental impact assessment. In support of that vision, the report addresses a number of topics, including the purpose of impact assessment, co-operation among jurisdictions, Indigenous considerations, public participation and evidence-based impact assessment.
The report also outlines strategies through which its proposed reforms can be implemented, with chapters on a new governance model, project impact assessment, monitoring, compliance and enforcement, discipline in assessment timeframes and cost, regional impact assessment, strategic impact assessment, and climate change and impact assessment.
“As we say in the report, our panel now looks forward to others taking the next steps to find a better way forward,” said Northey. “I’m excited to see what happens.”
With the report complete, Northey returns to practising as one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers. Building on his book, the Guide to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, published by LexisNexis, Northey’s work focuses on environmental assessment, approvals, hearings and appeals. His current clients include proponents, municipalities and First Nations.
Between 2004 and 2006, Northey served on an Ontario Ministry of the Environment panel to reform provincial environmental assessment for projects in green energy, transit, and waste management. He was also a member of the task force that resulted in the development of Ontario's two-million-acre Greenbelt.
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