Responsible Resource Development is the Government of Canada’s plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. Through this plan, we have streamlined the review process for major resource projects, while strengthening environmental protection and enhancing consultations with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples in the project review and development process.
Canada has the potential to be a major player in the global energy economy because of its abundant natural resources. With the third-largest known oil reserves in the world, a commitment to environmentally responsible development and the ability to provide a stable and secure supply, there is a global demand for our energy resources. Right now, hundreds of major resource projects are underway in Canada or planned within the next 10 years, representing a total investment of some $650 billion. We have an important opportunity to turn our energy advantage into concrete benefits for all Canadians.
Natural resource development supports 1.8 million jobs across Canada and generates billions of dollars worth of tax revenue and royalties annually. It also generates $30 billion in revenue annually to governments to fund social programs that Canadians rely on. From funding schools to building roads, Canada’s energy advantage is the cornerstone of our future and key to our economic prosperity.
Before the plan for Responsible Resource Development was put in place, Canadians and others who wanted to invest in our resources faced an increasingly complicated maze of rules and processes, with unclear accountabilities and uncertain timelines. There were significant project delays, unnecessary duplication between federal and provincial governments, and other inefficiencies. This discouraged potential new investors and undermined the economic viability of major projects.
To address these problems, the Government of Canada implemented its plan for Responsible Resource Development. Changes introduced under this plan are based on four key themes:
- More predictable and timely project reviews;
- Reduced duplication in the review process;
- Strengthened environmental protection; and
- Enhanced consultations with Aboriginal Peoples
Predictable reviews and reduced duplication
Through Responsible Resource Development, the government has successfully streamlined Canada’s regulatory regime for major natural resource projects so there is a more efficient and predictable process for investors. Today, potential investors can look at Canada and see firm, beginning-to-end timelines for environmental assessment processes that are reasonable and achievable, and based on years of experience and hundreds of project assessments. As well, the opportunity now exists for provincial review processes to be substituted for federal processes where they meet federal requirements, doing away with much of the duplication that was weighing down project reviews.
A key component of the Government of Canada’s plan for Responsible Resource Development is environmental protection. The government has committed that no major natural resource project will receive federal approval unless it is safe for the environment and for Canadians. To deliver on that commitment, it is taking action on several fronts to strengthen environmental protection.
Under Responsible Resource Development, the federal government has put in place changes to strengthen enforcement of environmental rules. For the first time, the Government has introduced enforceable environmental assessment decision statements. Proponents of major projects will have to comply with conditions set out in the decision statements or may face tough financial penalties, ranging from $100,000 to $400,000. The Government is also providing federal inspectors with the authority to examine whether conditions set out in an environmental assessment decision statement are met.
As well, it has introduced tough new financial penalties to preventively address contraventions to environmental laws under the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Act quickly so larger issues do not arise in the future. These fines can range from $25,000 to a maximum of $100,000 per day.
The Government of Canada has also announced its intention to enshrine in law the principle of “the polluter pays” and will introduce legislative measures that will require companies operating federally regulated pipelines to demonstrate they have the financial capacity to respond in the unlikely event of a spill. For companies operating major crude oil pipelines, the minimum financial capability will be $1 billion. As well, the Government has announced the creation of legislative measures that would increase the absolute liability for companies operating in Canada's Atlantic and Arctic offshore to $1 billion.
Canada’s pipeline network is among the safest in the world as a result of our strong environmental laws and standards, a robust pipeline safety regime and an experienced regulator in the NEB. The Government of Canada’s plan has a key focus on preventing incidents before they even happen. For example, annual inspections of oil and gas pipelines have increased by 50 percent from 100 to 150, and the number of annual comprehensive audits of oil and gas pipelines has doubled from three to six, making potential safety issues easier to identify before they occur.
The government is creating a world-class tanker safety system, which involves the implementation of eight tanker safety measures. These include increased tanker inspections, systematic surveillance and monitoring of ships, the establishment of a Canadian Coast Guard Incident Command System, an enhanced navigation system and new and modified aids to navigation. The Government has also introduced the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act and established the Tanker Safety Expert Panel to review Canada's current system and propose further measures to strengthen it. It is now reviewing the panel’s report, consulting stakeholders, including Aboriginal Peoples, and will be taking action based on it to complete the work of building a world-class tanker safety system.
The effective consultation and engagement of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in the development of our natural resources is a Government of Canada priority through its plan for Responsible Resource Development.
Responsible Resource Development includes a commitment to strengthen Aboriginal consultations. To ensure development is done a manner respectful of Aboriginal rights, the Government is:
- Integrating Aboriginal consultations into the new environmental assessment and regulatory processes;
- Providing funding specifically to support consultations with Aboriginal Peoples;
- Designating a lead department or agency as a single Crown consultation coordinator for each major project review;
- Negotiating consultation protocols or agreements with Aboriginal groups to establish more clearly what the expectations and level of consultation should be in project reviews;
- Negotiating memoranda of understanding with provincial/territorial governments to align federal and provincial/territorial processes and improve the involvement of Aboriginal groups, project proponents and government organizations; and
- Promoting positive and long-term relationships with Aboriginal communities in order to facilitate greater participation of Aboriginal people in the direct and indirect benefits of new resource projects.
The government has also made an investment of over $13 million to strengthen Aboriginal consultation to ensure First Nations communities benefit from the tremendous opportunities of resource development. This funding is being used for a number of consultation activities, including:
- Discussions within Aboriginal communities on projects, their potential effects on the environment, and adverse impacts on Aboriginal or Treaty rights so views and information can be gathered and brought forward during the environmental assessment process;
- Review of the technical documents prepared during the environmental assessment process and input on those documents; and
- Presentation of the views of Aboriginal Peoples to the federal government.
Done responsibly, infrastructure and resource development can realize significant positive impacts for Aboriginal communities across Canada. Over the next 10 years, 300,000 Aboriginal youth will enter the workforce at the same time when the resource sector will be experiencing a record-breaking labour shortage.
Today, some 32,000 Aboriginal people work in energy, mining and forestry jobs throughout Canada, making the natural resource sector a leading private sector employer of Aboriginal people. Natural resource development means more opportunities close to communities and traditional territories.
To better enable Aboriginal Peoples to take advantage of the opportunities associated with natural resource development, Budget 2013 provided over $600 million in support of Aboriginal education, skills development, and community infrastructure.
The government also appointed Douglas Eyford as its Special Federal Representative on West Coast Energy Infrastructure to engage with Aboriginal communities in British Columbia and Alberta on the issues that need to be addressed to enable their participation in oil and gas projects on the West Coast. The Government is now discussing Mr. Eyford’s report with Aboriginal Peoples in Alberta and British Columbia. This will inform its efforts to ensure that projects translate into sustainable economic development of Aboriginal communities.
With the implementation of its plan for Responsible Resource Development, the Government of Canada has improved Canada’s regulatory regime for major natural resource projects to ensure it is among the most efficient, effective and competitive in the world. At the same time, protecting our environment has remained a top priority. Through this plan, we are helping Canada develop its resources in a way that maximizes the benefits they can provide for Canadians across the country.