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Summary of the Evaluation of Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) Phase IV Coordination

About TMX Phase IV Coordination

In June 2019, the Government of Canada (GOC) approved the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project. This decision included a commitment to implement eight accommodation measures and responses to 16 recommendations of the Canadian Energy Regulator designed to mitigate or avoid potential effects associated with TMX and to build the capacity of and long-term relationships with Indigenous peoples. The GOC allocated a total of $31.6M to support the federal government’s post-decision (Phase IV) administration of TMX.

While each responsible department remains accountable for the delivery of its own accommodations and recommendations, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) was allocated $17.5M of this total to lead the whole-of-government coordination across these initiatives. Partner departments - i.e., Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Transport Canada (TC) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) - have also established their own TMX Secretariats to support departmental coordination.

What The Evaluation Found

Planned vs Actual Delivery

We found that the GOC has established suitable governance mechanisms to coordinate the implementation and delivery of the TMX Phase IV activities. While the organizational structure and titles have changed over time to account for evolving roles, NRCan’s two key coordination structures have been mostly operating as planned since 2019. However, the workload related to TMX coordination is not perceived as sustainable and partner departments report having underestimated the level of effort that would be required for coordination and reporting.

Effectiveness of NRCan’s Strategic Policy and Coordination Team (NRCan-SPC)

NRCan-SPC was responsible for supporting oversight and coordination among federal partners, and for tracking progress on implementation of TMX Phase IV. We found that NRCan-SPC has created effective tools and processes to support federal coordination. Key governance bodies are well supported. While partner departments do not always agree on decisions, NRCan-SPC is perceived to be open and transparent in working to resolve cross-cutting issues. NRCan-SPC has also helped facilitate and expedite regulatory approvals. Nevertheless, federal representatives perceived inefficiencies in the processes used to create and update coordination tools and improvements are required to ease the flow of information, including for external communications.

Effectiveness of NRCan’s Phase IV Partnership Office (NRCan-P4PO)

NRCan-P4PO was responsible for facilitating coordination among federal partners and tracking progress on implementation of accommodation measures and other custom commitments to Indigenous groups. We found that NRCan-P4PO has been mostly effective in this coordination role. It has played an innovative role helping partner departments navigate complexity, address more sensitive issues impacting a small number of Indigenous groups, and providing a coordinated federal voice on whole-of-government issues.

NRCan-P4PO also fulfilled its role for initial outreach to the 129 Indigenous groups with specific eligibility to access to some or all TMX Phase IV accommodation measures. However, its engagement strategy was finalized relatively late in the implementation of Phase IV and key communications products (e.g., P4PO newsletter and TMX Indigenous Portal) were either delayed or underused. Related performance metrics and tracking systems do not provide information on the meaningfulness of engagement.

Respondents from (a limited sample of) Indigenous groups generally rated the effectiveness of NRCan-P4PO’s engagement as “poor” to “fair”. Despite a few successful attempts to triage and streamline the GOC’s engagement, NRCan-P4PO has not fully fulfilled its intended role as a “single window” for Indigenous engagement. For various valid reasons, partner departments have continued to develop or maintain their own relationships and are interacting directly with Indigenous groups. Indigenous respondents also perceived room to improve skillsets for engagement (e.g., tailored communications) and reported challenges with building and maintaining relationships, exacerbated by frequent federal staff turnover. As a result, the majority of federal and Indigenous respondents agreed that the federal approach to engagement on TMX has not been effective in reducing engagement fatigue. NRCan-P4PO recognized this issue and has made attempts to respond, but there is room for further improvement.

Facilitating and Impeding Factors

TMX is a high profile, complex and time-sensitive major project for which GOC post-decision activity is unprecedented in scale or scope. Phase IV implementation was also adversely affected by several unforeseen events (e.g., COVID-19 and major natural disasters). While the evaluation found issues in the efficiency of processes and achievement of results, federal coordination on TMX has been reasonably effective in consideration of the broader context of the challenges faced in implementation.

NRCan’s effectiveness was impeded by the federal decision-making and accountability regime for TMX. Specifically, NRCan was given the mandate and accountability for coordination but does not have the authority to direct the actions of partner departments. Regardless, the existence of a coordination function, facilitated by the quality of support from NRCan and senior management, was a factor critical to successes achieved.

Ongoing Need for TMX Phase IV Coordination

The construction of the twinned TMX pipeline is currently expected to be completed in 2023. The evaluation found general agreement on the continued need for GOC coordination, at least as long as TMX Phase IV accommodation measures are still being implemented and/or construction is ongoing.

The coordination function’s location is not perceived to be important provided it continues to ensure the Crown’s commitments made during Phase III consultations and Phase IV are being met. That said, there is strong support for maintaining NRCan-SPC. For senior managers, the key question relates not to continued need for NRCan-SPC but rather the resource levels required to sustain oversight and coordination.

However, the evaluation found that the role of NRCan-P4PO could be reduced now that accommodations are in progress and partner departments have built their own direct relationships with Indigenous groups.

Lessons Learned

The evaluation identified the areas for improvement that could support ongoing delivery of TMX Phase IV (e.g., clearer delineation of roles and responsibilities, increased sustainability of federal workload, improved coordination for Indigenous engagement). The evaluation also identified lessons related to post-decision engagement on major projects, as well as a need to manage the precedent set by TMX and further advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Corporate knowledge built during the implementation of TMX Phase IV should be preserved and related lessons learned from current and past program reviews should be reviewed collectively and shared across the federal government to inform future initiatives.

Recommendation Management Response and Action Plan
    NRCan’s ADM Nòkwewashk should work with partner departments to review and streamline the level of effort required to support sustainable coordination. This should include a review of internal tools and processes (e.g., frequency and mix of coordination products) to reduce burden and provide a more holistic view of expected input and related timelines.

Management response: Nòkwewashk concurs with this recommendation, and has already taken steps to streamline products, activities, and processes to reduce the workload burden on TMX Partner Departments.

Actions include:

  • In Spring 2022, Nòkwewashk undertook a collaborative review of all coordination and communication products that require interdepartmental input; as well as all interdepartmental governance meetings. Representatives from the five TMX Partner Departments were asked to rank each of the products and meetings based on their overall effectiveness at supporting coordinated implementation. On the basis of this collaborative review, products have either been maintained, reduced in scope or frequency, or discontinued. Similarly, this review led to the consolidation of several recurring working level meetings in to one interdepartmental working group.
  • The result of this review was a simplified but comprehensive governance structure; and a reduced list of effective interdepartmental products that will be carried forward.
  • Nòkwewashk will repeat this exercise every fiscal year in collaboration with TMX Partner Departments, with an aim to only maintain coordination and communication products and governance meetings that are the most effective at supporting coordinated implementation.

Position responsible: Manager, TMX Implementation

Timing: Review of products to take place annually, at the end of each fiscal year to program sunset. Final review expected by April 1, 2025.

    To increase their utility, NRCan’s ADM Nòkwewashk should work with partner departments to refine and strengthen the federal government’s approach to external communications on TMX Phase IV implementation. This would include clearer delineation of roles and responsibilities and process improvements that result in more timely and tailored communications, particularly for Indigenous groups.

Management response: Nòkwewashk concurs with this recommendation, and will work to strengthen and refine communications on TMX Implementation, within the constraints of its significantly reduced capacity. Nòkwewashk will continue to provide coordination support for future communications regarding the TMX initiatives as a whole. TMX Partner Departments are responsible for proactive, two-way communications with Indigenous groups regarding the individual initiatives under their purview.

Actions include:

  • Nòkwewashk will work with TMX Partner Departments and Natural Resources Canada’s Communications and Portfolio Sector to refine the federal government’s approach to communications, including further streamlining approvals processes for communications products under its purview (i.e., the TMX Website and the Indigenous Portal) to ensure more timely and efficient updates. The revised communications approach will include:
    • Well delineated roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities;
    • Mechanisms for resolving disputes regarding content;
    • Clear, firm timelines for input and approvals; and
    • Focus on developing accessible, plain language content.
  • A full update of the TMX Website and Indigenous Portal is planned to take place before March 31, 2023.

Position responsible: Manager, TMX Implementation

Timing: April 1, 2023

    NRCan’s ADM Nòkwewashk should revise its approach to Indigenous engagement in ways that build trust and cultivate meaningful relationships with Indigenous groups (e.g., frequent check-in calls from engagement officers). This engagement should be more proactive and include measures to mitigate the negative impact of staff turnover on maintaining relationships.

Management response: Nòkwewashk concurs with this recommendation, and building trust and meaningful, and long-term relationships with Indigenous groups is at the core of its mandate.

Nòkwewashk is in the process of establishing long-term, place-based mechanisms for developing and strengthening these relationships that are not tied to individual projects or programs.

Nòkwewashk will continue to conduct proactive engagement related to TMX through existing mechanisms such as the TMX Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee. However, NRCan has limited resources to carry out its role in coordinating post-decision implementation of TMX and its related initiatives, and will no longer maintain its Phase IV Partnerships Office. Nòkwewashk’s role in carrying out proactive engagement specifically related to the TMX Project and associated initiatives through the Phase IV Partnerships Office has been wound down in favour of broader, place-based, engagement focused on long-term relationship-building. Nòkwewashk will continue to play an important role in being supportive and responsive to Indigenous groups that raise complex or cross-cutting issues related to the TMX Project.

Actions include:

  • In Budget 2022, Nòkwewashk received funding to expand the Indigenous Partnerships Office (IPO). The expansion of IPO is focused on establishing ‘regional hubs’ of staff across Canada focused on taking a place-based approach to building and sustaining relationships with local Indigenous communities across Canada.
  • Nòkwewashk also received funding through Budget 2022 to continue to support the TMX Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee to facilitate a collaborative, inclusive, and transparent approach to monitoring and oversight of TMX.
  • Nòkwewashk will continue to be responsive and supportive to Indigenous groups regarding complex or cross-cutting issues related to the TMX Project.

Position responsible: ADM Nòkwewashk, NRCan

Timing: Actions will be ongoing. Review of progress to date to be completed by April 1, 2025.

    NRCan’s ADM Nòkwewashk should develop performance metrics for TMX Phase IV implementation that are more meaningful to Indigenous groups.

Management response: Nòkwewashk concurs with this recommendation, and has adjusted its performance indicators to reflect its role in supporting ongoing Indigenous engagement related to TMX implementation to the extent possible given the dedicated resources available.

Actions include:

  • As part of its performance measurement strategy, Nòkwewashk has adjusted its performance indicators to measure:
    • Supportiveness and responsiveness to Indigenous groups on TMX-related matters;
    • Ability to support fulfillment of custom commitments to Indigenous groups made during the Phase III consultations; and
    • Level of satisfaction from Indigenous groups with the effectiveness of support provided by Nòkwewashk during implementation.
  • Nòkwewashk will work with Indigenous groups directly to ensure that performance metrics and indicators are meaningful to Indigenous groups for any new or renewed program proposal put forward.

Position responsible: ADM Nòkwewashk, NRCan

Timing: Performance indicators must be fulfilled by program sunset (March 2025). Final reporting expected by June 30, 2025.

    NRCan’s ADM Nòkwewashk should work with partner departments to improve the definition and communication of roles and responsibilities for coordination of TMX Phase IV implementation, including working collaboratively to develop dispute resolution mechanisms.

Management response: Nòkwewashk concurs with this recommendation, and will work with TMX Partner Departments to ensure there is a mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities.

Actions include:

  • In March 2022, Nòkwewashk shared updated Terms of Reference for each of its governance committees, revised in collaboration with TMX Partner Departments.
  • NRCan will review these Terms of Reference on an annual basis, with the next review scheduled for March 2023.
  • The updated terms of reference should:
    • Establish clear and predictable objectives for interdepartmental work;
    • Ensure topics and issues are able to be brought forward and resolved through the governance structure;
    • Establish clear expectations for all parties around timing for input, reviews, and approvals; and
    • Be accompanied by a clear and predictable forward agenda.

Position responsible: Director General, Regulatory Coordination, Consultation, and Indigenous Economic Inclusion, Nòkwewashk

Timing: Annual update of Governance TORs to program sunset (next scheduled for March 2023). Final review expected by April 1, 2025.

About the Evaluation

The evaluation examined the extent to which TMX Phase IV coordination structures were implemented as planned and could demonstrate progress towards intended results. It also assessed the ongoing relevance of NRCan’s TMX Phase IV coordination and identified lessons learned from early implementation that could be used to improve future performance. The scope of the evaluation focused on NRCan’s lead in coordination from June 2019 to December 2021, with consideration for the role of partner departments in facilitating intended results. The scope excluded the performance of specific accommodations or CER responses linked to TMX and activities that took place during earlier phases of TMX (e.g., Phase III consultations). NRCan’s Evaluation Division collaborated with partner departments to design and complete this evaluation. The evaluation was conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board (TB) Policy on Results (2016) and related Standards on Evaluation.

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