The tensions between expectations for more ambitious and effective assessment processes and demands for quicker approvals have been evident for some time but there has been too little serious work to identify solutions.
The purpose is of the Next Generation Assessment Project is to examine in detail how a much more advanced and harmonized approach to assessment (integrating strategic as well as project level application, positive-contributions-to-sustainability objectives as well as mitigation aims, careful attention to cumulative effects, earlier and more influential public engagement in governance, and linkages with other sustainability-focused initiatives) could enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of assessments and related decision making on major undertakings.
The major research activities and project products so far have centred on four agenda items:
- a comprehensive review – relying on existing materials, discussions with key informants, and selected new research – identifying and integrating all of the major recognized needs and proposals for making assessment more effective, efficient and fair in Canada, considering the key roles of federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous authorities, and addressing the challenges of interjurisdictional applications;
- development of an understanding of the core principles for next generation regime design, based on ideas drawn from sustainability assessment, resilience and innovation, public interest law, new governance, public participation and social learning, but specified for application to the problems and opportunities for assessment renewal in Canada;
- design of a generic law and policy framework for establishing renewed and harmonized assessment regimes in Canada, including provincial, territorial and Indigenous authorities, with potentially broad applicability at least to other countries with multi-jurisdictional approaches and long-established assessment experience; and
- a set of more specific inquiries into particular openings for improvement.
Project funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is gratefully acknowledged.