So your company has a new project it wants to build. Your financing is in place and it will provide well-paying jobs and significant economic benefits. Great news, right?
In theory, all you need before you can start building is an environmental certificate and some permits. How complicated can it be getting to ‘yes’ on those? The short answer is, more difficult and time consuming than you probably anticipate.
Although the road to yes might feel singularly focused on the regulatory process, today there are many other factors to consider. So, think of the project review process as a road trip. And like some road trips, you can expect bumps along the way.
Why? Because now, more than ever, regulators and governments are placing more emphasis on public and First Nations acceptance of projects in addition to its economic merits and environmental impact.
Take, for example, Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton, AB, and Burnaby, BC. First announced in May 2012, the project underwent a 29-month review by the National Energy Board that included 1,650 participants, including some 400 intervenors. Federal government approval was granted in December 2016, followed by BC provincial government approval in January 2017 – nearly five years after it was first announced. While construction is slated for this September, the project still faces significant opposition in Metro Vancouver, and is facing court challenges.
So before you head out on your project approval journey, ask yourself some questions. Do you have community goodwill? What’s your relationship with all levels of government? What’s your corporate track record in other jurisdictions? Do you have project advocates? Can you withstand delays in construction?
What is your company’s level of tolerance to deal with protests or campaigns that could be organized? Dealing with the impacts of a ‘no’ campaign can require significant time and energy from your executive team. That’s why it’s also important to continue filling up the tank with community goodwill.
In one way or another, these factors can affect your journey and ability to get to yes.
There may be detours when you have to make adjustments to your project, like adding a new design element or adjusting the location of a project component based on feedback from stakeholders, First Nations or regulatory agencies. There may be red lights when you have to temporarily stop the regulatory review process because you need to undertake additional studies or make changes to your project.
One of the most important factors in getting to yes is a willingness to stand up and publicly advocate for your project. You can’t expect stakeholders to speak out in support of your project if you’re not willing to do that for yourself.
Your chances of getting to yes will be greatly improved if you follow these steps:
1. Have an engagement and consultation plan and follow it
2. Build relationships with your key stakeholders before you start the regulatory process
3. Be flexible and willing to make changes
4. Publicly advocate for your project
NATIONAL has experience across Canada providing strategic counsel for companies working to get to yes on their projects. To find an expert in your market, check out our Community Engagment page .
——— Michelle Ward is a former Vice-President, NATIONAL Public Relations