Effectiveness Of Strategic Environmental Assessment In Canada Under Directive-Based And Informal Practice

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Effectiveness, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Strategic Thinking, Canadian Cabinet Directive, Tiering, Law and Policy, Planning Law


This article explores the diversity of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) practice in Canada and lessons for improving the effectiveness of SEA. There are multiple dimensions to effectiveness, but core to SEA effectiveness is its strategic nature. SEA under the Canadian federal Cabinet directive is approached largely as an impact assessment tool, and effectiveness evaluated based on compliance. Practice is entrenched in project-based assessment principles, but with no mandatory provision for public engagement, which limits the potential effectiveness of SEA. External to the Cabinet directive, across Canada’s provinces and territories, SEA and SEA-like practices are occurring in diverse forms and represent the more advanced and exemplary cases. A common challenge to SEA effectiveness, however, is that applications are often limited by their ad hoc nature and disconnected from any larger and formal system of participatory and integrated policy, planning and development decision making.