Port authority decision making regarding coal exports and other environmental determinations under the Impact Assessment Act

Petition: 455

Issue(s): Air quality; Climate change; Environmental assessment; Governance; Human/environmental health

Petitioner(s): A Canadian organization

Petitioner location(s): Vancouver, British Columbia

Date received: 25 May 2021

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition seeks information on actions taken by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Transport to protect the integrity, impartiality, and objectivity of environmental determinations by port authorities made under section 82 of the federal Impact Assessment Act. The petition specifically refers to port authorities in British Columbia and decisions to approve coal export enhancement projects that the petition maintains have negative environmental impacts. It suggests that there is a potential conflict of interest due to the structure of compensation bonus arrangements for some port authority decision makers. The petition expresses concern that as a result, some project permits may be granted without adequate consideration of potential environmental impacts.

The petition states that while Canada Port Authorities are autonomous arm’s-length corporations, they are incorporated by letters patent issued by the Minister of Transport. According to the petition, these letters patent set out both a code of conduct for directors and others and the port authorities’ powers, including environmental assessments and other provisions that the Minister considers appropriate under the Canada Marine Act. The petition adds that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is responsible for administering the Impact Assessment Act and that the Minister’s mandate includes leading the implementation of the whole-of-government plan for climate action and a cleaner environment. The petition argues that the Minister has a responsibility to ensure that the environmental impacts of coal export facilities and environmental determinations by port authorities are considered objectively, independently, and fairly.

The petition asks both ministers a series of questions related to their knowledge of port authority decision making and bonus arrangements and related to the Minister of Transport’s role in supervising these compensation packages. It also seeks information on safeguards, policies, and actions taken to prevent conflicts of interest and on whether the port authority code of conduct may be revised. Finally, the petition asks about any actions taken by the ministers to ensure that these compensation packages do not undermine the ability of port authority officials to objectively review potential environmental impacts in keeping with the provisions of the Impact Assessment Act.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Impact Assessment Agency of Canada; Transport Canada