Government needs to go back to square one

Simcoe Reformer: Bob Blakeley - May 15, 2009


I t appears as if the federal government's climate change plan may be in trouble.

In his latest report, Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan said Environment Canada is overstating cuts to greenhouse gases projected in the government's green plan. In addition, the department could not show how it arrived at its numbers.

"The expected emission reductions claimed in the plans are overstated, and the uncertainties related to those reductions are not disclosed," the commissioner's audit stated.

The audit questioned the department's assumption that all of Canada's biggest polluters would comply right off the bat with regulations that will put limits on greenhouse gases and for failing to indicate how future economic conditions might affect expected cuts to greenhouse gases.

Vaughan also looked at Canada's compliance with the Kyoto Accord, which the previous government approved. The accord called for this country to lower its greenhouse gas emissions 6% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The present government has stated that goal was unattainable and adopted a more modest goal of a 20% reduction from 2006 levels by 2020.

The government has brought in a tangle of regulatory measures but Vaughan found that Environment Canada had no way of tracking how effective specific policies are in curbing emissions. The department says it is too costly and technologically cumbersome to track how much particular policies lower greenhouse gases.

If that is the case, what is the point of bringing in the policies in the first place?

Without accurate tracking of how successful the policies are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions there is no point in introducing them. Vaughan disagrees that there is no way to track the success or failure of current policies saying in Europe there are systems to measure the impact of all government measures.

The audit shows the federal government really has no idea what to do to protect the environment and how to reduce greenhouse gases. While some of the plans that have been brought in might be effective, without proof they are less than useless. The government needs to go back to square one with the environment. If Environment Canada continues to insist it can't track the results of the regulations then a new system needs to be devised.

Many of the government's environmental regulations have been introduced with great fanfare but it now appears to be just so much smoke.

Meanwhile, the destruction of Canada's boreal forest has led to a dramatic reduction in some populations of songbirds that use the area for nesting.

The information was brought out by a group of environmentalists and scientists who also said greater protection of the forest is required by the federal and provincial governments.

Canada's boreal forest stretches from Newfoundland through to the Yukon and into Alaska and is under threat from logging, mining and other industrial activities. Ontario Nature said logging in Ontario alone can destroy an estimated 45,000 migratory bird nests in a single year. Although Ontario has pledged to protect 225,000 square kilometres of the boreal forest no legislation has been passed to fulfil that promise.

Once again Canada is sacrificing the environment for economic gain and if it continues we will lose much of what makes this country what it is. The economy is important but so is the environment.

Bob Blakeley can be reached at

Article ID# 1569871

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