The Green Connection's report on Cooperative Governance identifies problems of capacity, institutional constraints, and difficulties in the practical implementation of Memorandum of Understanding.
Legislative & Institutional Problems
• Confusion as to which authority should take the lead: Successful communication among government departments often depends upon a “champion” to take initiative and arrange meetings. Often there is confusion over which department is the lead agent on an issue.
• Different institutional arrangements from province to province: Provincial officials lack an understanding of the institutional arrangements associated with planning and development activities.
• Failure to reach common understanding of sustainable development: While all agree that the end goal is “sustainable development,” different departments have diverse, and sometimes conflicting, ideas of what the goal looks like.
• Duplicate permitting processes lead to inefficiency, public participation fatigue, and tensions between government departments.
• Inflexible application of tools (particularly the EIA): The EIA has been used as a “one size fits all” tool with no room for exemptions or the exercise of discretion, such that a private developer building a luxury hotel in an environmentally sensitive area and a government housing project in an non-sensitive area are subject to the same EIA process. The process often consumes much of the budget allocated for a development that could otherwise go to positive social development or conservation efforts.
• Government agencies tasked with different aspects of environmental management are unfamiliar with EIA purpose and processes, which hinders alignment and cooperation.
• Overloaded officials do not have the time or resources to attend more meetings and coordinate with other departments.
• Lack of resources such as email, phone lines, and transportation frustrates officials’ ability to communicate with other departments and attend joint meetings.
• MOUs are limited to procedural issues such as timeframes, roles, and responsibilities, and often have little effect in practice.
• MOUs can be slow, time consuming, and inflexible: Informal working arrangements or “gentleman’s agreements” are sometimes more effective than trying to formalise the existing relationships in writing in an MOU. “Show stoppers” such as conflicting legal mandates or lack of will or capacity to participate in the MOU, can halt the EIA process.
• Lack of capacity cannot be compensated for by an MOU: MOUs are not a cure-all solution to ensure cooperative governance – they must be supported by adequate staff and resources.