‘Faster’ environment approval for mines measured in years, not days

May 2, 2023
Denise Mullen

What 180-day process takes nearly a year? A federal one, of course -- specifically phase 1 of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) process.

That’s the finding of a review by the Canada West Foundation (CWF) of projects moving through the federal government's IAA environmental review process.

“An analysis of all projects submitted under the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA) shows that three and a half years after the act came into force, progress is slow and almost all projects are still in very early stages of assessment,” the CWF report finds.

Before the IAA replaced the Canadian Environment Assessment Act in 20189, former Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the new environmental review process would have legislated timelines.

“Shorter legislated timelines for the project review phase will be rigorously managed to keep the process on track,” she said.

The CWF examined 25 projects in the IAA review process. One has made it all the way through and has been approved – the Haisla First Nation’s Cedar LNG project in Kitimat -- but that was through a substitution process, in which the BC Environmental Assessment Office actually conducted the environmental review.

“Task one is to figure out how to reduce and improve the regulatory simplicity of the mining process and reduce duplicative efforts across jurisdictions,” David Cohen, American ambassador to Canada, said this month at a First Nations Major Projects Coalition conference.

“We are most concerned with the conclusions of this report demonstrating what we know in practice to be true — that the more efficient and faster process promised under the federal Impact Assessment Act has not materialized,” said Denise Mullen, director of environment, sustainability and Indigenous relations for the Business Council of BC.

“Enhancing prosperity for all Canadians means our regulatory processes must be improved because failure to do so has significant investment opportunity costs that will be felt for generations.”

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