Improving Environmental Decision-Making in Canada

CALGARY – May 3, 2012. Despite having some of the best environmental practices in the world, Canada’s environmental decision-making process can and should be improved. At present, the focus is on the regulatory approval system and the role of bodies such as the National Energy Board, but this is only the tip of the decision-making iceberg.

Keeping Pace: Improving Environmental Decision-Making in Canada provides a diagnosis of the state of the current decision-making process used to manage the environmental effects of natural resource development. The report is based on interviews with 23 experts including former senior civil servants, industry leaders, former Cabinet ministers, internationally-renowned scientists, and environmental leaders. The report outlines both the shortcomings of the environmental decision-making process and how they can be addressed.

“The combined experience with environmental decision-making of the people we interviewed for this report totals well over 400 years,” notes Canada West Foundation Vice President Robert Roach. “The general consensus of these experts is that science is not properly integrated into the decision-making process and that we have to move beyond what has become a highly polarized debate about what is or is not appropriate when it comes to resource development.”

The report recommends a renewed emphasis on scientific information, greater intergovernmental cooperation, and a much clearer articulation of how elected officials plan to address the combined challenges of resource development and environmental protection.

Keeping Pace: Improving Environmental Decision-Making in Canada is part of the Canada West Foundation’s Our Natural Advantage project, which explores options for improving the decision-making process as it pertains to environmental implications of natural resource development. It was the key output of Max Bell Foundation’s 2011-2012 Senior Fellow, Barry Worbets.

For a copy of Keeping Pace: Improving Environmental Decision-Making in Canada or any other Canada West Foundation research papers, visit