Thu. Mar. 6 2008 11:25 PM ET
When it comes to environment policies the federal government doesn’t come close to making the grade, says a report released Thursday by Canada’s environment commissioner.
Ron Thompson gave a rating of “unsatisfactory” in nine of 14 areas. His status examined key issues broached by the government in the past and measured how much progress had been made.
The government needs to create better strategies to effectively protect people, plants, animals and habitat, he said.
“We don’t think that’s a very good track record, frankly,” Thompson told CTV on Thursday. “We have four chapters (in the report) on ecosystems, they (have all seen) unsatisfactory progress… In terms of the areas of concern in the Great Lakes, we’re not in very good shape at all.”
The government received failing grades in:
Protected Areas for Wildlife
Protection of Species at Risk
Control of Aquatic Invasive Species
Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin
International Environmental Agreements
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Greening of Government Operations
Listing of Species at Risk
Genetically Engineered Fish
Areas where the government received a passing grade including regulating toxic chemicals, mandating insurance for nuclear operators and cleaning up military dumpsites.
The report cited a lack of political will to dedicate money to environmental issues, which may not garner the same kind of political support as more hot-button topics.
“I’m left with the view, frankly, that there’s been far too much talk and far too little action,” Thompson said, noting successive governments have passed environmental laws and policies even they have failed to uphold.
RELATED: Groups demand action on environmental health
Some of the issues in the report go back years and are not focused on the current government.
Environment minister John Baird shrugged off any blame Thursday, saying the previous Liberal dynasty that failed to act appropriately.
“We can’t clean up 13 years of environmental mismanagement in two years,” Baird told CTV on Thursday. “We’re acting. We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”
Aaron Freeman, policy director for Environmental Defence Canada, disagreed. He was quick to note the government has had two years and two budgets to improve funding for the country’s environmental causes.
“We’re seeing $10 billion to pay down the debt but virtually nothing to clean the Great Lakes,” he told CTV.
Great Lakes need attention
Despite repeated promises to clean them up, the report said the Great Lakes remain a cesspool of problem areas and sewage. Of 17 “severely degraded areas of concern” identified for intense clean-up efforts more than 20 years ago, only two have since been addressed.
According to the report, problems in the worrisome regions included fish deformities, beach closings, and taste or odour problems with drinking water, harbours tainted by toxic sediments and rivers choked by surface run-off.
With a report by CTV’s Roger Smith