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Summary of the Joint Audit and Evaluation of the Spruce Budworm Early Intervention Strategy – Phase II

About the Spruce Budworm Early Intervention
Strategy – Phase II (SBW EIS-II)

Native to North America, the Spruce Budworm (SBW) is a destructive insect that feeds on the needles of fir and spruce trees, resulting in defoliation. SBW outbreaks can have widespread, devastating, and long-term impacts on the forestry industry. The Canadian Forest Service (CFS) was allocated up to $74 million over four years (2018-19 to 2021-22) toward preventing SBW outbreaks in Atlantic Canada and improving knowledge and tools to address current and future SBW outbreak development and spread through the SBW EIS-II. Costs were to be shared 60 percent by the federal government and 40 percent by program partners comprised of provincial governments and the forestry industry.

The eastern spruce budworm (top: adult moth; bottom: caterpillar)

What the Engagement Found


The SBW EIS-II is well aligned with governmental and NRCan priorities and there is a necessary role for the federal government in the area of pest management given the interjurisdictional nature of SBW outbreaks. There is a continued need for the program in order to protect forests in Atlantic Canada from SBW outbreaks, reduce the rate of defoliation, protect the wood supply, and positively contribute to Canada achieving its targets regarding carbon emissions and sustainable forest management.


The SBW EIS-II partially achieved its immediate outcomes and made progress toward achieving its intermediate and long-term outcomes, which are focused on effective treatment (and in the longer-term, protection) of Atlantic Canada’s forests at-risk of an SBW outbreak, access to scientific knowledge and SBW surveillance/response solutions, and integration of scientific knowledge into program decisions.

Longer time horizons are required to determine the program’s overall success and the achievement of its final outcome of forests protected from SBW outbreaks provide a sustainable wood supply for Atlantic Canada’s forestry industry.

Performance Measures

A flaw in the design of some performance indicators limited the program’s ability to report achievement of some of its outcomes. The two indicators for scientific publications and presentations are categorized into surveillance solutions and response solutions. However, being limited to these categories leaves out numerous important published scientific papers and presentations and does not capture the full breadth of what the program was able to achieve.

There is an opportunity for the SBW EIS-II to improve information management processes to ensure they are updated on a regular basis with data and information related to the program’s intermediate and final outcomes. This will allow the program to monitor trends and progress more effectively as well as support decision-making.

Additionally, there is an opportunity for the program to develop performance measures regarding engagement with potentially impacted Indigenous communities.

Governance and Oversight

The SBW EIS-II’s governance bodies provide effective oversight and challenge functions and support program delivery and effectiveness. The program utilized a governance structure that brought together experts, multiple levels of government, and industry to tackle a common issue through the Healthy Forest Partnership (HFP). There is adequate and diverse representation of key stakeholders on each committee, which supports sound decision-making for the program. However, there is an opportunity to formalize a conflict-of-interest process for all current and future program committee members and more clearly document the program’s information management processes to increase program efficiency and support knowledge transfer.

Engagement Strategy

There is a robust engagement strategy in place for the SBW EIS-II, which has greatly contributed to the program’s success. The program engaged early and regularly with Indigenous communities, local communities, and landowners to increase awareness and understanding of research and insecticide application activities. Additionally, there is a high degree of collaboration and engagement internally among program partners. The HFP is comprised of researchers, academics, provincial and federal government officials, and industry members who all collaborate, share findings, and participate in the decision-making process.

Citizen science was a factor positively influencing the achievement of expected results, increasing the program’s effectiveness and fostering a greater degree of trust and understanding among community members.

Resource Allocation

Program representatives indicated that the allocated resources (both FTEs and budget) used to deliver and achieve the SBW EIS-II’s outcomes are adequate. Although the program has generally remained within budget, it has been challenging for the program to accurately predict the precise amount of funding required for each fiscal year over the duration of the program. A large part of the program’s budget is dedicated to insecticide application, which largely depends on SBW populations. In the midst of the program, an unexpected natural decline in SBW reduced the need for treatment which led to larger than expected lapses in funding. There is a known challenge with better aligning multi-year financial and reporting practices with science-based programs where expenditure needs and outcomes are driven by nature.

The 60:40 cost-sharing arrangement introduced an additional layer of complexity in terms of increased administrative burden and confusion regarding how to quantify in-kind contributions. The program’s Terms and Conditions have since been modified to simplify the calcuation of this requirement.

About the Engagement

The objective of this joint audit and evaluation is to assess the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and economy of the SBW EIS-II. The joint engagement covers the period from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2021.

NRCan’s Audit and Evaluation Branch (AEB) conducted this engagement in accordance with the Treasury Board (TB) Policy on Results (2016) and the Institute of Internal Auditors’ International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing and the Government of Canada’s Policy on Internal Audit. Details on specific engagement questions, methods and limitations are found in the full report.

Recommendations Management Response and Action Plan
  1. The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM)/Canadian Forest Service (CFS) should ensure that the SBW EIS-II develops and implements a formalized conflict of interest process, including a verification process for all current and future program committee members as well as procedures regarding recusal from funding decisions when appropriate to mitigate conflict of interest risk.

Management response: Management agrees with Recommendation #1.

While there were no actual conflicts of interest documented in Phase II, a renewed EIS program will work with the NRCan COI unit to ensure alignment with departmental best practices and to formalize a conflict of interest verification process for committee members involved in discussions directly or indirectly related to activities funded by NRCan at the onset of the initiative.

NRCan will formalize the conflict-of-interest process by requiring that all current and future committee members complete a conflict-of-interest check, starting in 2022-23, which will reduce the risk of perceived or real conflict of interest when funding decisions are being made. The conflict-of-interest process will be monitored over the duration of the project, including at the onset, during the call for proposals, and whenever a project proposal is received and considered for funding.

A formal recusal procedure will be prepared at the onset of the initiative and shared with anyone involved in funding decision-making during the initiative. Abiding to this procedure will be a requirement for anyone involved in funding decisions. In line with Phase II, any committee members who may have a personal interest in a decision with funding implications will be removed from the process. This will be monitored and reported through HFP committee minutes, as well as the CFS review committee minutes. Reminders of the recusal procedure will be made by CFS to all committee members, particularly at key decision points, over the duration of the program.

Position Responsible: Program administrators

Due Date: June 2022

  1. The ADM/CFS should ensure that the SBW EIS-II improves and clearly documents the program’s information management processes to increase program efficiency and support knowledge transfer by ensuring that the results of intermediate and long-term outcomes are consistently recorded, key documentation is consistently retained, and that service standards related to the selection of proponents are met.
Management response: Management agrees with Recommendation #2.

A renewed EIS program will develop a consistent naming convention for both documents and folders in GC Docs to increase efficiencies and consistency in the administration of documentation in support of contribution agreements. To ensure consistency and increase program efficiency, the program officers will also provide Proponents with revised reporting templates for transfer and recording of the results of both the intermediate and long-term outcomes.

Administrative and reporting standards will be implemented at the onset of the program and monitored at mid-year and end-of-year over the duration of the program to ensure that the program’s information management processes are being consistently followed.

Position Responsible: Program administrators

Due Date: June 2022
  1. The ADM/CFS should ensure the SBW EIS-II develops GBA+ and diversity targets and performance measures, collects relevant data, and assesses how different groups are impacted by the program, thereby turning unexpected outcomes into expected outcomes and allowing for improved monitoring. Specifically, consideration should be made to develop specific targets and measures related to the engagement of Indigenous communities.
Management response: Management agrees with Recommendation #3.
A renewed EIS program will include new indicators, and related targets, aimed at tracking:

  1. Impact of the program on workforce demography and diversity, and specific impact of equity, diversity and inclusion measures taken by funding recipients in the context of forest health protection operations and research activities; and
  2. The resolution of concerns raised by Indigenous groups, and potential impacts on communities of projects under a renewed program.

This information will be articulated in proposals and reports from recipients of federal contributions. Baselines and targets for these new indicators will be established after the first year of a renewed program. Results will be monitored annually through contribution agreement reporting over the duration of a renewed program.

A renewed program will encourage recipients of contribution funding to report baseline workforce demography and diversity data as part of a voluntary survey. The Program will also provide recipients of contribution funding with a template for a diversity and inclusion plan that can be considered to guide the development of specific employment equity measures for their respective organizations.

Position Responsible: Program administrators

Due Date: June 2022

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