Understanding the Process
The Clean Environment Commission is established under The Environment Act (1988) to provide an independent avenue through which the public can participate in the decision making process regarding the environment in Manitoba. The Commission provides advice and recommendations to the Minister of Sustainable Development regarding environmental issues and licensing. A summary of the process is available here.
The Minister of Sustainable Development will generally refer projects to the Commission when there is a great deal of public concern raised or for projects that have far reaching or a significant impact on a large number of Manitobans.
The Hearing/Investigation Announcement
Once the Minister decides that an issue or project needs further review (or review outside the department), he/she may refer it to the Clean Environment Commission. The minister will publically announce that the Commission will be examining the issue and will provide the Commission with Terms of Reference that will guide it through the process. It will be specified whether the review will take the form of a full hearing or an investigation.
The Commission will then appoint three to five members to serve on the review Panel. Selection of Panel members is based on specific skills and/or a specific knowledge area. In addition to the skills of the panelists, the Commission may hire outside experts to help them understand the technical information. The role of the Panel is to take into consideration all evidence and information presented during the review process and prepare a report and recommendations for the minister.
The Public is invited to Participate
Public participation is key to the success of a hearing and an important part of an investigation. The Commission values the opinions and knowledge of the citizens who are affected by the project under review. There are several ways to participate in a hearing or investigation, each with different levels of commitment and responsibilities. For information specific to participation see Get Involved.
All hearings and public meetings associated with an investigation are open to the public to attend and observe. Attending such an event and listening to what others have to say may inspire you to also express your opinions as a Presenter or through a written submission.
If anyone or a group would like to give their opinion on the issue but are unable to attend a public meeting or hearing or are uncomfortable speaking in public, they may send in a written submission before the identified deadline. These submissions will be reviewed by the Panel and will become part of the public record; the same as any other evidence.
An individual or group may also choose to present their opinion or observations during the hearing or meeting as a Presenter. A Presenter is generally given 15 minutes to appear before the Panel and make their statement. An individual or group must apply to the Commission to be a Presenter.
The most significant way to be involved in a hearing is to be a Participant (there are no Participants in an investigation). To be a Participant an individual or group must apply at the very beginning of the process and be approved. Participants often serve the role of the opposition by gathering significant amounts of information and researching details that are then presented to the Panel. This is a very involved and time consuming job, and for that reason funding is often available to help prepare the case. Participants play an important role in assisting the Panel in understanding the issues that are considered in the development of their recommendations.
The Hearing or Public Meeting takes place
The hearing and investigation processes can be long and often the public participation component (hearing sessions or public meetings) does not take place for a year or more after the first announcement has been made. These sessions may be spread over several days, weeks and in some cases months. During a hearing or public meeting all the identified parties are given an opportunity to present their position. In a hearing this will include the Proponent and Participants giving opening remarks, a presentation, questioning each other, answering questions put to them by the Panel and making closing remarks. Presenters are given a chance to make their statements and at specified times short questions from the audience will be allowed to be made of the Proponent. At a public meeting there are only Presenters who make their statement before the Panel. Transcripts or a record of the sessions are made and are available to the public as are copies of the presentations and written submissions.
The Report and Recommendations
The Panel has 90 days after the completion of the hearing to provide a report with recommendations to the Minister. In writing this report and making recommendations the Panel considers all the evidence and information presented to them throughout the process. This includes presentations, written submissions, questions asked and answered during the hearing and any research the Panel may have conducted.
The report and recommendations are forwarded to the Minister who then considers them. The minister then decides whether or not to adopt the recommendations, he/she is under no obligation to do so. If the recommendations are not accepted then written reasons are required.
The final report is available to the public.