Competitive Canada: Recommendations to improve federal assessment for major projects

Marla Orenstein | September 2023
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Executive Summary

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Many aspects of Canada’s approval system for major projects are world-leading. The process is rigorous, inclusive and protective of the environment. However, it isn’t efficient, coordinated or predictable.

This presents a competitiveness problem, but also a competitiveness opportunity. Many of Canada’s competitors also struggle with slow regulatory and permitting regimes and are attempting to develop solutions.

This report focuses on opportunities for improving project approval under the federal Impact Assessment Act. Some solutions are relatively easy to implement; others require deeper change. However, as noted by the government of Australia, “Any regulatory system is only as good as its weakest link. Partial reform efforts are unlikely to achieve meaningful improvements.”

In this report, we identify five key problems:

PROBLEM 1: Jurisdictional duplication & insufficient coordination

PROBLEM 2: Low confidence in the process of federal decision-making

PROBLEM 3: Policy decisions devolved onto the project approval process that should be addressed through other governmental processes

PROBLEM 4: Overly long process and slipping timelines

PROBLEM 5: Overly large scope

Read the full report for our analysis of these problems as well as solutions that can help Canada make progress and increase regulatory competitiveness.

Further reading:

Federal Impact Assessment Act Under Review: Measuring Progress on Projects and Timelines
Marla Orenstein, Director of the Natural Resources Centre, May 2023

POLICY BRIEF | What now? The ongoing saga of Bill C69
Marla Orenstein and Colleen Collins, May 2022