October 23, 2023
Atlantic Canada offers a wealth of opportunities to meet the demands of our ever-changing world. The easternmost provinces are home to numerous undeveloped mineral deposits, abundant clean energy sources, and proven offshore oil reserves. With the ongoing green transition, weakened global supply chains, and a drive to enhance energy security, businesses are looking to invest in the region. When considering a project in Atlantic Canada, it's essential to take into account the unique regulatory requirements and social climate across the region.
Atlantic Canada boasts a rich history of major projects, some of which have achieved varying levels of success, while others never got off the ground. This historical backdrop deeply influences stakeholders' perspectives and affects their approach to new development. Incorporating this historical context into your planning process can greatly enhance your approach to development. Additionally, there is a wealth of existing environmental, social, and regulatory data available to inform any new project.
Stakeholders and rights-holders across Atlantic Canada may move at different paces. Even if a project promises to create jobs, establish a vital industry, and prove economically viable, people require time to learn and form their opinions. Thus, it's crucial to commence early engagement with Indigenous communities, local organizations, regulators, and government officials. This proactive approach can help you anticipate important discussions and uncover potential risks in advance. The trust built with stakeholders during the project planning phase can significantly impact the project's success.
When it comes to changes within a community or ecosystem, people prefer not to be surprised. Therefore, ensure that proactive communication is a fundamental component of your engagement plan. Include an appropriate level of detail that enables people to comprehend your plans and any potential impacts.
Informing all stakeholders of proposed developments is important, but listening to their feedback is equally crucial. Ensure that all communications are documented, categorized, and that follow-ups or promised actions are promptly addressed. Building trust through these interactions is essential for the regulatory approval process.
Make yourself available to stakeholders in various settings, offering a range of communication options, including feedback forms, informational materials, virtual meetings, in-person sessions, and community-specific methods.
Social licenses to operate and regulatory approval processes vary from one region to another and differ across industries. Therefore, it's vital to comprehend the nuances of your operational profile and the multiple, overlapping requirements.
For instance, in Atlantic Canada, a Benefits Agreement is generally required to be signed with the developer of a resource or energy project. Though not always directly linked to the Atlantic Accord, this agreement often relies heavily on spending and employment data. This encompasses data throughout the entire project's supply chain, including apprentice status, gender, labor location, residency, and diversity data regarding companies and individuals affected by the project.
Another example pertains to federal regulators, provincial regulators, and project-specific environmental assessments. These diverse sources of commitment may interpret similar requirements differently, leading to overlaps, conflicts, and differing priorities. Identifying potential issues early can better prepare you for addressing them.
Projects typically demand significant time and effort to advance. In the end, companies must invest in building trust and setting the stage for long-term success. There's no quick and easy path to approval. Being upfront and transparent throughout the process provides your project with the best chance for success in the long run.
Matt Adams is the CEO of NetBenefit Software. Based on the east coast of Canada, Matt has spent his career (and more of his social life than he’s willing to admit) in the Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) software space.
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