The Western Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area strategic environmental assessment: public participation and learning
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The pursuit of efficiency and effectiveness in environmental assessment (EA) processes has prompted the introduction of a promising, second-generation process: Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). In order to learn about SEA practice and identify opportunities for improvement of SEA, this research examined the ongoing Western Newfoundland Offshore Area SEA. Analysis was conducted on data obtained from documents, observations, and interviews with participants in the case study SEA to determine if meaningful participation had occurred, participants’ learning outcomes, and recommendations for future practice. The results show that the principles of meaningful public consultation were not in place, resulting in dissatisfaction with the participatory process and limited learning amongst participants. The meetings also veered from some of the important elements of a SEA (e.g., examining broad alternatives). Variance from the basic principles of SEA and meaningful public consultation demonstrated a lack of commitment to conducting an effective and influential strategic assessment.