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Environmental audit will reflect on Harper

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Environmental audit will reflect on Harper



Mike De Souza / The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, March 04, 2008



Water quality in the Great Lakes, contaminated sites and endangered species are among the topics that federal Environment Commissioner Ron Thompson tackled in a report to be released later this week.


The 14-chapter audit will be tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday, opening the door to some headaches for the Harper government on one of its most sensitive priorities.


The last major report from the commissioner, who reports to the auditor general, blasted the government in 2006 for failing to adequately address the threat of climate change and its potential impacts. While the Harper government blamed the previous Liberal regime for not acting after that report, the findings in the audit could focus more on this government's actions.


They (the reports) are for the most recent period possible for each audit," said Margot Booth, a spokeswoman for the auditor general. "They try to use the most up-to-date information."


The auditor general's office has a practice of informing the government about each chapter, and it works with the appropriate officials to find solutions to the issues raised in the audit. Ms. Booth said much of the audit work in the new report was completed last summer and fall.


Pierre Sadik, a senior policy adviser at the David Suzuki Foundation, said the government would be forced to take responsibility for the new report since it is now entering its third year in power.


"It would be ludicrous for the government, Canada's new government, at this point to continue pointing the finger at the previous government on the environment," said Mr. Sadik.


One chapter of the report will specifically examine Environment Canada's efforts to address 17 environmentally degraded areas of concern around the Great Lakes. Mr. Sadik noted that some research has suggested that 93 per cent of pollution that causes or is suspected of causing cancer in the region is originating from Canadian facilities.


He added there is little progress in federal efforts to clean up contaminated sites. Meantime, the government has also missed legally binding deadlines to approve plans to protect 154 of 215 species at risk.


"What's been happening is environmental groups, including us, have been having to take the government to court," Mr. Sadik said. "It shouldn't have to be that way. It costs us money and time to get the government to do what its own legislation says it should be doing."


At a news conference yesterday, environmental groups suggested the government was also on the verge of announcing new details about its framework for regulating pollution from industry. They warned that it is dragging its feet on a pledge to introduce draft regulations for industry by this spring, delaying it possibly until the fall.

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