Strategic Environmental Assessment Policy

1. Innovation, Science and Economic Development's (ISED) Strategic Environmental Assessment Policy

The policy will guide the department's implementation of the 2010 Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Cabinet Directive) and supporting Guidelines which outline key government requirements for Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA).

2. Definitions

Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA):
A SEA is a comprehensive evaluation by departments of the important environmental effects (positive and negative) of their Proposals to Ministers. A SEA informs strategic decision-making by the Government through careful analysis of environmental risks and opportunities.
A Proposal is any program, plan or policy presented to the Minister or Cabinet for consideration. A Proposal can include a Deck presentation, Memorandum to Cabinet, Aide Memoire, or a Ministerial Recommendation; a Treasury Board Submission; a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement; or other planning document for resource allocation, such as a Budget letter.
Proposal Lead:
The lead on developing the SEA is the director responsible for developing the Proposal.
Public Statement:
A public statement indicates the expected environmental effects of a Proposal. The statement may be part of the Government's general announcement on the Proposal or provided as a stand-alone communication by the Minister.
Environmental effect:
Any direct or indirect effect on the environment (i.e., air, water, land and all interacting natural systems) that can be attributed to the Proposal's implementation, including on health and socio-economic conditions, on physical and cultural heritage, on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Indigenous persons, or on any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance.
Direct effect:
An environmental effect that is: a change that a proposal may cause in the environment; or a change that the environment may cause to a proposal. It is a consequence of a cause-effect relationship between a proposal and a specific environmental component.
Indirect Effect:
A secondary environmental effect that occurs as a result of a change that a proposal may cause in the environment. An indirect effect is at least one step removed from a proposal activity in terms of cause-effect linkages. For instance, a river diversion for the construction of a hydro power plant could directly result in the destruction of fish habitat causing a decline in fish population. A decline in fish population could result in closure of an outfitting operation causing loss of jobs. Thus, the river diversion could indirectly cause the loss of jobs.
Important environmental effect:
Important environmental effects are environmental effects that need to be managed because they may affect the achievement of government commitments (e.g., the goals and targets in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy); reflect public, stakeholder or Indigenous concerns; affect the number, location, type and characteristics of sponsored initiatives; or raise significant risks or uncertainties to the environment that may affect Canadians' health and well being (e.g., application of new technologies).

3. Framework

ISED's SEA policy is based on the following five framework texts:

  1. the Department of Industry Act;
  2. the Federal Sustainable Development Act;
  3. the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy;
  4. the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010); and
  5. the Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010).

3.1 Department of Industry Act

The Department of Industry Act (S.C. 1995) is the department's founding legislation. The Act mandates the Minister of ISED to "strengthen the national economy and promote sustainable development."

3.2 Federal Sustainable Development Act

The Federal Sustainable Development Act (S. C. 2008) requires that the government develop a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and update it every three years. It also requires departments to develop annual departmental strategies.

3.3 Federal Sustainable Development Strategies

The 20162019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) is our primary vehicle for sustainable development planning and reporting. It sets out our sustainable development priorities, establishes goals and targets, and identifies actions to achieve them. The 2016–2019 FSDS—Canada's third—outlines what we will do to promote clean growth, ensure healthy ecosystems and build safe, secure and sustainable communities over the next three years. The strategy consists of 13 aspirational, long-term goals that reflect the Canada we want and are a Canadian reflection of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ISED's departmental action plans primarily fall under the goals of Effective Action on Climate Change, and Clean Growth. A full list of the goals and targets is provided in Annex Five.

3.4 Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals

The 2010 Cabinet Directive states that a preliminary SEA scan is to be completed for all Proposals presented to a Minister or to Cabinet for consideration.

A full SEA is only required when the following conditions are met:

  • a Proposal is submitted to a Minister or to the Cabinet for consideration; and
  • the Proposal's implementation may result in important environmental effects, (positive or negative; direct or indirect) in Canada or abroad.

A full SEA can also be completed in cases where strong stakeholder reaction to the Proposal is expected or the environmental effects are uncertain. The Cabinet Directive states, however, that the effort in preparing the analysis should be commensurate to the magnitude of the anticipated effects.

3.5 Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals

The 2010 Guidelines state that:

  • Ministers are responsible for ensuring their Proposals are consistent with the government's broad environmental objectives and sustainable development goals, as described in the 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
  • Departments are responsible for taking economic, social and environmental considerations into account when making informed decisions in support of sustainable development.
  • Departments are also responsible for reporting on the extent and results of their SEA practices in annual Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPP) and Departmental Performance Reports (DPR). The DPR reporting must include a description of how plans, programs and policies subject to SEA have affected or are expected to affect progress towards the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's goals and targets.

4. Policy purpose

The updated SEA policy outlines ISED's commitment to conducting high quality SEAs (preliminary scans and full reviews) that address the requirements of the 2010 Cabinet Directive, the supporting Guidelines and the goals and targets of the 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

The SEA policy also reflects ISED's interest in integrating sustainability considerations into its decision-making.

5. Policy implementation

The Department is fulfilling its responsibilities on SEA implementation by:

  • incorporating the 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's goals and targets into ISED's SEA policy and questionnaire for conducting preliminary scans and full assessments;
  • clarifying the mandatory requirements for completing preliminary scans, full SEAs and public statements in the SEA Policy and Questionnaire, strengthening accountability consistent with the 2010 Cabinet Directive and Guidelines;
  • encouraging officials to also complete full SEAs in situations where strong stakeholder reaction to the Proposal is expected or the environmental effects are uncertain, supporting greater transparency;
  • identifying advisory and other resources in the Department to support high quality and timely completion of SEAs, allowing for early-stage identification and integration of environmental considerations into ISED decision-making.

6. Policy resources

ISED's SEA Advisor is available to provide advice and guidance to Proposal Leads at each step in the SEA process.

Additional support, if required, is also available from SEA experts at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).

7. Policy application

ISED's Strategic Environmental Assessment Policy applies to all ISED officials and portfolio members (as appropriate) involved in the development of Proposals for Ministerial or Cabinet consideration.

8. Policy accountability

The Deputy Head of ISED is responsible for the SEA Policy's implementation.

9. Policy review and evaluation

One year after it comes into effect, the Policy will be reviewed by Strategic Policy Branch in consultation with sectors. Thereafter, it will be evaluated on a three-year cycle consistent with the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy cycle, to ensure that it remains aligned with the government's broader environmental objectives, directives and guidelines.

10. Enquiries

If you have any questions about the SEA process, please contact ISED's SEA Advisor, Georgina Wainwright Kemdirim, Strategic Policy Branch, at 343-291-2665.

11. Effective date

ISED's updated SEA policy came into effect in July 2013.

12. Annexes

Updating of the annexes will not require an amendment to the policy.