Learning Oriented Impact Assessment Under the Proposed Federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA)

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Impact Assessment Act, Climate Change, Regulatory Process, Canada


Note: This post was prepared jointly with my colleague, Professor John Sinclair at the University of Manitoba.

Rather than merely treat assessments as hoops for proponents to jump through in order to gain project approval, it is now more commonly recognized that impact assessments should be centered on learning. To achieve this, the potential for learning by all participants must be recognized throughout the assessment process from the earliest pre-planning phases through to monitoring of effects and outcomes. In fact, we contend that the current crisis in federal EA in Canada is caused in part by the lack of integration of learning into EA. This suggests that the potential benefits of learning need to be recognized throughout all of the typical stages of a strategic, regional or project assessment. Four aspects of assessment processes are particularly important to fostering a learning orientation. They are public participation, knowledge development, monitoring of effects and regime evolution.