Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the issue raised by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands regarding the role of offshore boards in environmental assessment.
In June 2016, the Government of Canada launched a comprehensive review to restore the confidence of Canadians in federal environmental assessment processes, restore lost protections of our fisheries and waterways, and modernize the National Energy Board. Now, after more than 14 months of extensive engagement with indigenous leaders, provincial and territorial leaders, businesses, environmental groups, and Canadians, the Government of Canada has introduced proposed legislation that reflects the values and priorities Canadians expressed throughout this process.
The proposed impact assessment act, tabled by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, lays out a vision for a modern impact assessment and regulatory system that recognizes that the environment and the economy must work together to help us build a sustainable future. It represents an important shift in the way that major projects will be assessed in Canada.
First, the proposed changes seek to broaden project reviews from environmental assessments to impact assessments with a focus on sustainability. This means that assessments would consider a broader range of potential impacts to understand how proposed projects could affect not just the environment but also social and health aspects, indigenous peoples, jobs, and the economy over the long term.
Second, regulatory certainty would be achieved by making the system more efficient and predictable, giving companies the clarity and predictability they need with legislated timelines. Also, a single federal agency, the impact assessment agency of Canada, would lead all impact assessments for major projects. This includes projects that are regulated by the offshore petroleum boards in Atlantic Canada. In recognition of the joint management offshore accords with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, the agency would collaborate with the offshore boards in reviewing major offshore oil and gas projects. This would ensure that we continue to rely on the wealth of technical knowledge and expertise that they have developed over the past 30 years. Under the proposed framework, decisions would be based on whether a project with adverse effects is in the public interest based on key factors.
Another element of the proposed legislation, reconciliation with indigenous peoples, is one of the main elements of the design of the new system. The proposed changes seek to build new partnerships based on recognition of indigenous rights up front. This includes early engagement and participation at every stage. This legislation would create new space for indigenous jurisdictions to enter into agreements with the federal government to exercise powers under the act, including the potential to conduct assessments. Going forward, it would be mandatory to consider and protect indigenous traditional knowledge alongside science and other evidence.
Finally, transparency and science are essential elements of the proposed new process. The new system aims for more openness and transparency. A new online platform would be created to share information and data, and to make it easier for the public to access.
In conclusion, the proposed legislation reflects values that are important to Canadians, including early, inclusive, and meaningful public engagement; nation-to-nation, Inuit-crown, and government-to-government partnerships with indigenous peoples; timely decisions based on the best available science and indigenous traditional knowledge; and sustainability for present and future generations.