1 June 2012

Public Participation, Value Conflict and the Politics of IA - Session II, Presentation 4

Strategic Intervention in Project EIA Canada

EIA of large energy and mining projects are subject to strategic interventions by interested parties in Canada who wish to pursue broader policy questions.

Often not mandated by EIA regulations.

No SEA in Canada except on plans, policies and programmes but secret as they are for cabinet decision making.

Some province do do SEA in an ad hoc way.


Screening level EIAs (of smaller projects) does not require consideration of purpose or alternative to the project.

Only a consideration in larger projects where a comprehensive assessment, mediation or review panel is required.

But not a mandatory but discretionary aspect.


Lower Churchill hydroelectric case study:

  • 3100mw development, large, and reservoir 200km long.
  • EA recently completed by province and government.
  • Scope asked for economic feasibility and energy policy.
  • NGOs asked for extensive and detailed questions about need for and alternatives to the project among other things.
  • Review Panel concluded that the proponents had not demonstrated need.
  • Government response was to reject the Review Panel recommendation and gave the go ahead.
  • But now in the courts, against the Review Panel failed to assess and reach conclusions on need for and alternatives.
  • Discretionary scoping of broader economic issues encouraged debate and contributed to a protracted review process. Even though the local government had authority to develop the policy and the government opened a discussion of these broader issues within the EIA process.

General Guidelines for Comprehensive Studies case study:

  • Alternatives is now included in the guidelines even though discretionary in the legislation.
  • Public officials have usurped politicians role and spirit of existing legislation that it shoul dbe done when appropriate not in every case.


  • NGOs using EIas as a platform for wider strategic debate and advance an anti-development agenda often at the expense of local stakeholders.
  • Regulatory agencies need to do a better job of scoping within mandate and legislation.
  • Need to respect the rights of proponents if they fall within existing legislation.
  • Administrators ned to balance fairness in consultations between proponents and objectors.
  • Government currently removing the example of discretionary scope elements of need for and alternatives.



Is there always a need to consider the need for a project?

Is it a government decision to let these wider policy issues within the EIA process rather than consider them through an SEA process?


  • It's to discuss need for but not of for example if China wants it why don't they mine it in China.
  • Mining companies need for answer is that they want to make money and xplout this ore body, this answer is not acceptable to interveners/objectors. Often mining companies can't answer the strategic questions raised.
Need to address why these strategic issues are being discussed in EIAs rather than elsewhere.

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