Canadian Consulting Engineer

Environmental approvals headed for speedier process

In the week following the federal budget speech, the Minister of Natural Resources has emphasized the government's intentions to streamline the environmental review process for major resource projects -- projects which involve a great deal of...

April 9, 2012   Canadian Consulting Engineer

In the week following the federal budget speech, the Minister of Natural Resources has emphasized the government’s intentions to streamline the environmental review process for major resource projects — projects which involve a great deal of infrastructure and construction activity.

The Honourable Joe Oliver spoke in Thunder Bay on April 5. “Major economic projects in Canada are currently subject to long, unpredictable and potentially endless delays because of a needlessly complex and duplicative approval process,” he said. “Streamlining this process for major economic projects will result in the creation of good, skilled, well paying jobs.”

Oliver said that the government realizes that the approvals system needs “comprehensive reform,” and said it wants “one project, one review.” The feds will have to work with the provinces to achieve this goal.

The government also wants defined limits to environmental reviews. As defined in the 2012 Economic Action Plan the limits will be: 12 months for standard environmental assessments, 24 months for panel reviews, and 18 months for National Energy Board Hearings.

The Canadian Building Trades and the Mining Association of Canada have expressed their support and appreciation of the government’s efforts to speed approvals.

As the 21st century unfolds the government sees the key to Canada’s economic future is in the mineral resource industries. The budget speech cited the oil and gas, mining and forestry sectors as “driving economic growth across the country.”

It sees the potential “in every region of the country — natural gas in British Columbia, oil and minerals on the Prairies, the Ring of Fire in Ontario, Plan Nord in Quebec, hydro power in Atlantic Canada, and mining in Canada’s North.”

Meanwhile, the government also says it wants to encourage this development in an environmentally responsible way, working in cooperation with First Nations, and in step with the provincial governments.

The federal budget of March 29 also included a number of other items of special interest to consulting engineering companies. For example, the government has said it will maintain the $33 billion Building Canada Fund until 2014 and the $2-billion Gas Tax Fund to support infrastructure construction activity.

The budget also promised that the government will double investments in the Industrial Research Assistance Program and improve the incentive program for business innovations. It also said that the government will reform the immigration system to make it faster and more efficient to fill gaps in the labour force, and it will be making new investments to build and renovate schools in First Nations reserves.


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