Recent efforts by the Canadian government to curb the time allowed for environmental reviews over fears of adverse impact on economic development are misguided and unnecessary, according to research by scientists at the University of Toronto. Instead, the federal government's tinkering will only weaken environmental protection and not expedite economic growth.
The researchers found that most environmental regulatory reviews were already being completed within the arbitrary timeframes laid out in the 2012 legislation restricting the reviews of new developments.
"Even before the significant changes to federal environmental oversight introduced last year, the majority of submissions reviewed under the Fisheries Act in the previous 10 years were processed within one to two years," says Dak de Kerckhove, a PhD candidate in U of T's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "This is the same length of time prescribed by the newly revised Canadian Environmental Assessment Act."
The federal government has justified sweeping changes to the country's environmental protection policy by stating that the review process was slow and inefficient, but provided no evidence apart from the testimony of a handful of representatives of the resource extraction and energy sectors.
So, de Kerckhove and faculty members Ken Minns and Brian Shuter examined environmental reviews from 2001 to 2011, comparing the number of requests for reviews in a particular year with the number of reviews completed in the same fiscal year. They found no evidence that regulatory review in Canada was inefficient, even when regulators had an ongoing load of over 600 projects for review at any given time.
"While it is possible that a minority of projects take longer to assess, we found no major backlogs in processing higher loads of reviews," says de Kerckhove. "And in comparison with the few examples available from the United States, Canada was much quicker
|Contact: Jenny Ryan|
Canadian Science Publishing (NRC Research Press)