A Next-Generation Assessment Framework for Examining the Impact Assessment Act

AuthorRobert B Gibson, A John Sinclair, an d Meinha rd Doelle
 2
A Next-Generation Assessment Framework
for Examining the Impact Assessment Act
Robert B Gibson, A John Sinclair, and Meinhard Doelle
In this book, the new Canadian federal assessment law is considered in
light of global and national expectations for advanced impact assess-
ment regimes. Both global and national expectations are rooted in what
we can learn from past failures, oversights, and evident best practice,
as well as what is needed to address current and looming challenges.
These considerations are well documented in academic and profes-
sional journals, reported case material, and the broader literature on
the contexts in which assessment regimes should operate.1 No sin-
gle compilation prevails. Authorities dier on how the key compon-
ents should be dened and organized into a conceptual framework,
how their interactions should be recognized, and how they should be
adjusted for application in dierent jurisdictions. Nonetheless, it is
not dicult to identify the core components of next-generation impact
assessment regimes or to specify these requirements as criteria for the
1 See, for example, David P Lawrence, Environmental Impact Assessment: Practical Solu-
tions to Recurrent Problems, 2d ed (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2013); Richard K
Morgan, “Environmental Impact Assessment: The State of the Art” (2012) 30:1 Impact
Assessment and Project Appraisal 5; Alan Bond, Angus Morrison-Saunders & Richard
Howitt, eds, Sustainability Assessment: Pluralism, Practice and Progress, 1st ed (London,
UK: Taylor and Francis, 2012); Christopher Wood, Environmental Impact Assessment: A
Comparative Review, 2d ed (Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, 2003).
A Next-Generation Assessment Framework for Examining the Impact Assessment Act | 33
design, implementation, and evaluation of assessment law and policy
for Canada at the federal level.
This chapter outlines a next-generation assessment framework that
incorporates international learning as well as key themes in the Can-
adian deliberations surrounding the assessment law and policy reform
process that led to the Impact Assessment Act (IAA).2 Several authors of
chapters in this book have contributed to developing the framework and
its components, which inuenced the structure and content of PartII of
the book. Many of the chapters in Part II also deal specically with key
components of next-generation assessment; others touch on them. We
also apply the framework at the end of the book in considering how far
the IAA moves us to the next generation.
Legislated impact assessment requirements were introduced over
y years ago with the National Environmental Policy Act in the United
States3 and have since spread to approximately 160 jurisdictions around
the world. Forms have varied widely, reecting the global diversity of
socio-ecological and governance systems and associated issues, trad-
itions, capacities, ambitions, and power structures. Over time, assess-
ment laws, policies, and structures have also evolved, devolved, and
shied in many directions, in part due to changes well beyond the
realm of assessment law, policy, and practice.
Among the key inuences have been expansions in the scale of con-
cerns and opportunities. Assessment issues in the 1970s were primarily
local matters, oen involving tensions between desires for expansion
of economic activities and fears of adverse contamination, resource
depletion, and community disturbance. Over the following decades,
assessments increasingly faced regional and international issues as well.
Especially since the beginning of the twenty-rst century, assessment
regimes have been immersed in a world that is increasingly complex,
demanding, and, in some ways, uncertain. The current global context
for assessments is enormously richer in nancial and technological
capacities but also burdened by deeper concerns about unsustainable
2 SC 2019, c 28, s 1.
3 42 USC § 4321 et seq.

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