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2013–2014 Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy

Environment Canada’s Decision-making and Sustainable Development Practices

The concept of sustainable development rests at the core of the Department’s mandate. A flexible, yet robust decision-making process is, therefore, essential in order for the Department to consider the social, economic and environmental dimensions of strategic, policy and program issues as they arise. To this end, the Department’s decision-making process, within an established corporate governance structure, allows for both formal and informal opportunities, as outlined below, to consider issues, set priorities, and render either decisions or recommendations as necessary.

Sustainable Development Champion

The Assistant Deputy Minister of the Strategic Policy Branch is the Sustainable Development Champion and has overall leadership of the departmental responsibilities related to sustainable development. In 2013–2014, the Champion will:

  • coordinate the formulation and implementation of the 2013–2016 FSDS and Management Framework;
  • provide overall leadership and coordination in the implementation of the FSDA, through effective interdepartmental engagement and the Sustainable Development Office; and
  • provide leadership for the Department on strategic environmental assessment.

Strategic Environmental Assessments

To ensure that environmental considerations receive an appropriate level of attention in decision making, the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Cabinet Directive) was issued to all government departments and agencies, setting out clear obligations regarding strategic environmental assessments (SEAs). According to the Cabinet Directive, ministers expect an SEA of a policy, plan or program proposal to be conducted when the following two conditions are met:

  • The policy, plan or program proposal is submitted to Cabinet or to an individual minister for approval.
  • The implementation of the proposal may result in important environmental effects, either positive or negative.

The Cabinet Directive requires the consideration of the scope and nature of any likely positive or negative environmental impacts generated by these proposals, as well as the potential for mitigation and enhancement. The FSDS committed the federal government to consider the FSDS goals and targets when undertaking SEAs.

Environment Canada will ensure that it continues to comply with the Cabinet Directive and will develop quality SEAs that take the FSDS goals and targets into consideration. A Departmental Policy on SEA is in place to establish the key elements of a well-functioning SEA management system. These include clear accountabilities and procedures, updated guidance materials and a comprehensive SEA tracking system.

Environment Canada will continue to implement its SEA policy and further strengthen its SEA performance. In particular, the Department will ensure that:

  • high-quality SEAs are completed for policy, plan and program proposals as required under the Cabinet Directive;
  • SEAs include a detailed analysis of a proposal’s potential effects on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets;
  • SEAs include measures to mitigate negative environmental effects (including effects on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets) and enhance positive environmental effects;
  • public statements are issued where SEAs have been approved or announced; and
  • in accordance with the Cabinet Directive, Environment Canada responds to requests from other departments and agencies to provide expert policy, technical and scientific analysis on sustainable development, and the potential environmental effects of initiatives.

The Environment Canada 2013–2014 Departmental Performance Report will provide a description of actual and/or expected effects of departmental proposals on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets, as identified in SEAs conducted over the coming year.

Decision-making Tools

Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement Summaries

Environment Canada uses regulatory impact analysis statements (RIASs) to determine the expected impact of regulatory initiatives as per the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management.

A RIAS provides a cogent, non-technical synthesis of information that allows the various audiences to understand the regulation and its impacts. It contains the reason the issue is being regulated, the Government’s objectives, and the costs and benefits of the regulation, including the effectiveness of the regulation from an environmental objective standpoint. It also addresses who will be affected, who was consulted in developing the regulation, and how the Government will evaluate and measure the performance of the regulation against its stated objectives, which provides transparency in support of sustainable development decisions by government. A list of Environment Canada regulations, along with their RIASs, can be found at this website.

Intergovernmental Collaboration and Stakeholder Consultation

Environment Canada’s sustainable development decisions and actions require collaboration, partnership and information exchange with key partners and stakeholders, including other levels of government, Aboriginal peoples, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations and Canadian citizens. As such, Environment Canada aims to foster positive, long-term relationships with these key constituencies in all of its activities. For example, relationships with provincial and territorial partners are advanced through bilateral agreements, as well as through multilateral forums, such as the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. In addition, the Department consults and engages with Aboriginal peoples and stakeholders to deliver on core priorities such as protecting and conserving our air, water, wildlife and natural areas.

Monitoring, Reporting and Policy Improvement

Performance measurement and evaluation are complementary. While performance measurement is ongoing and focuses on the quantification of certain aspects of performance, evaluation is a snapshot in time. Regularly collected performance measurement information is used in periodic evaluation that provides, when analyzed in the context of evaluation-specific data collection, a more in-depth and independent assessment of the outcomes achieved.

Ongoing Monitoring and Reporting

Implementation of the DSDS will be monitored and reported on an ongoing basis in two ways:

  • periodic reporting to the Executive Management Committee by the Sustainable Development Champion
  • reporting in the departmental Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports.
Audit and Evaluation

The FSDS[1] will be evaluated as part of the evaluation of Environment Canada’s Sustainability Reporting and Indicators Program. The evaluation will address issues related to relevance and performance, in compliance with the Treasury Board’s Policy on Evaluation (2009). Evaluation relies on sound, reliable and credible performance measurement information to demonstrate progress toward intended program outcomes.

Policy Improvement

In the follow-up to the 2014–2015 evaluation, the management team leading Environment Canada’s contribution to the FSDS will develop a management response with clear and concise management actions to address evaluation recommendations. This response will allow management and evaluators to better ascertain progress toward addressing the recommendations and will facilitate the evaluator’s ability to assess the disposition or completion of management actions.

The Evaluation Division regularly monitors and reports on the status of management action taken in response to evaluation recommendations. Doing so provides Environment Canada’s Departmental Evaluation Committee (chaired by the Deputy Minister) with timely information on how well the Department is addressing and resolving risks or deficiencies and acting on identified opportunities that have been raised in evaluations.

The External Audit Advisory Committee also provides a challenge function and independent, objective advice and recommendations to the Deputy Minister.   


[1] The internal evaluation will include both the secretariat function, which Environment Canada holds, as well as Environment Canada-specific elements within the FSDS.

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