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Evaluation of the Great Lakes Action Plan IV

5.0 Recommendations

5.0 Recommendations

Recommendations for the current or future iterations of the GLAP are based on the findings and conclusions of the evaluation. Overall, GLAP IV continued to be a relevant program to address ongoing needs for ecological restoration in the AOCs and is well‑aligned with departmental and federal priorities. At the end of its five-year term, GLAP IV has not fully achieved its intended longer-term outcomes in the areas of addressing BUIs and delisting AOCs, due in large part to the complexity and long-term nature of the task. The following recommendations focus on improvements to the management of the program in three areas: delivery and oversight; financial management and accountability; and performance measurement and reporting.

Delivery and Oversight

Oversight of GLAP IV was challenged by several changes that occurred within Environment Canada during the program's five‑year term. The changes affected both the overall management and the coordination of the program, and the GLSF. One recommendation pertains to improving coordination and accountability of the program, and one pertains to ensuring the timeliness and responsiveness of the GLSF.

1) The Regional Director General (RDG)‑Ontario should develop a suitable instrument to enhance coordination of federal partners involved in GLAP and the accountability of their efforts toward achieving GLAP goals. GLAP IV is a complex initiative that requires the contribution of many federal partners to achieve program goals. With the demise of the work plan review teams and process, GLAP IV lacked the instruments to ensure that these efforts were coordinated and that federal partners were implementing work plans to achieve program goals. The work planning process, convened annually as it was envisioned, could be re-instituted to enhance coordination and accountability.

2) The RDG‑Ontario should explore means of streamlining both the GLSF funding approvals process and the GLSF application process. While mostly satisfied with the GLSF program, proponents identified two issues with respect to administration: timeliness of approvals and an overly complex application process. Consideration should be given to scrutinizing the timing of the funding cycle to ensure that funding approvals coincide with seasonal activities, and that the application process is streamlined to promote efficiency (perhaps by exploring adoption/applicability of common application forms/guidelines being developed as part of the wider federal G&C reform exercise). Although most contribution agreements are single-year only, the majority of projects are of an ongoing nature. The use of multi-year agreements may be appropriate in some of these instances.

Financial Management and Accountability

There is limited information on GLAP IV program expenditures. Financial tracking of GLAP IV funds was weak during this iteration of the program due to limited use of codes for expenditures at the program level. One recommendation pertains to financial monitoring of GLAP funds at Environment Canada.

3) The RDG‑Ontario should explore ways to enhance the financial accountability of the program. The direct transfer of funds to internal partners and absence of program-specific coding of expenditures within the Department has weakened financial accountability of the program. Diligent coding of expenditures at the program level is a key element to ensure transferred funds are received and utilized within Environment Canada by departmental partners to meet program goals and priorities. The merit and potential disadvantages of direct transfers of program funds within Environment Canada to departmental partners for financial accountability should be examined.

Performance Measurement and Reporting

GLAP IV monitoring and reporting was not guided by a performance measurement framework. As a result, a broad spectrum of performance measures for federal partners and the GLSF were not identified early in the program and reporting requirements, particularly for federal partners, were not clearly articulated. Five recommendations pertain to improving performance measurement and reporting.

4) The RDG‑Ontario should develop a more regular and robust reporting approach for GLAP projects conducted by federal partners. Performance reporting for projects conducted by federal partners was unspecified and sporadic. A more robust reporting approach should be based on clear terms and conditions for reporting on funds allocated to federal partners. Reporting should link activities/deliverables to approved work plans, recognizing that, in some cases, federal projects are undertaken as part of an integrated science program.

5) The RDG‑Ontario should develop a performance measurement framework for the program, and include a spectrum of more sensitive performance measures (shorter- and longer-term). The program does not have a performance measurement framework and is not currently well‑positioned to demonstrate progress and interim results because measures such as delisting AOCs are long-term. A more nuanced approach must balance the benefit of performance measurement with the cost of monitoring and assessing BUIs in the AOCs. Recent efforts by the program to document accomplishments and assign roles, responsibilities and timelines for outstanding actions and priorities are acknowledged as a strong foundation for this ongoing work.

6) The RDG‑Ontario should support the development of information management tools to enhance implementation and monitoring of GLSF and federal projects. No systematic process exists for monitoring and reporting the activities, outputs and performance for GLAP-funded projects or the program overall. A Department-wide Management Information System for Environment Canada's community funding programs, including the GLSF, is in development, although this system is not expected to be implemented until 2012. Opportunities for interim tracking of activities and project and partner contributions should be identified.

7) The RDG‑Ontario should support the development of information-sharing tools to facilitate broader access to the research generated by GLAP IV by the scientific community and the public. There is no ongoing mechanism available for technical transfer of research and results across the AOCs. This is an outstanding commitment in Annex 4 of the COA.

8) The RDG‑Ontario should continue efforts to define delisting criteria for AOCs and clarify responsibilities with respect to delisting decision making. Roles and responsibilities for aspects of delisting AOCs are a grey area and may be variable across the AOCs. As more AOCs approach restoration, clarifying the steps to delisting will increase in importance.

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