Sierra Club of Canada - Rio Report Card
.FEDERAL - 1997
Commitment to Increase ODA to 0.7 % of GNP
2. Commitment to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
3. Commitment to Protect Biodiversity
....Endangered Species Legislation
....Adherence to the Federal Wetlands Policy
4. Commitment to Review/ Reform Pesticide Policies
5. Commitment to Environmental Assessment
6. Agenda 21 Commitment - Trade and Environment
7. Commitment to Conservation of Marine Biodiversity
8. Commitment to Indigenous Peoples
9. Incorporating Environmental Concerns
Commitment to Increase Overseas Development Assistance to 0.7 Per Cent of GNP
1993 Grade: F
1994 Grade: B
1995 Grade: F
1996 Grade: F
1997 Grade: F
Although there were no additional budget cuts since last year's report card, the projected reductions in ODA from the 1996 budget carried into this year. The long-standing commitment of the Government of Canada to meet the 0.7% target, established by former Prime Minister Lester Pearson remains, but is clearly disappearing into the mists of time. In the previous federal election, the Liberal "Red Book" committed to meet the 0.7% target. In every year of the Chretien government, the level of ODA has fallen. In the federal election campaign last month, the Liberal campaign platform, "Red Book 2," made no reference to Overseas Development Assistance. However, in response to a Sierra Club election questionnaire, the Liberal Party offered the following: "A new Liberal government is committed to improving the effectiveness of our development assistance and to making more progress towards the 0.7% GNP target when Canada's fiscal situation permits it." Thus, from an ODA level of 0.45% of GNP at Rio, by 1998-99 Canada's ODA will plummet to 0.27% -- the lowest level since the 1960s.
Five years after the Earth Summit, it is clear that the so-called "Rio Bargain" has been wholy abrogated by Canada. Sadly, Canada's defence is that most other industrialised nations have also abandoned the commitment to increase financial assistance to developing countries. The need to provide global equity has not diminished. But creative solutions to the need for new and additional resources, such as the Tobin Tax, remain outside the mainstream of government policy.
Some progress has been made through reform of International Financial Institutions and the multilateral debt relief to Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). But even in that narrow scope of action, debt relief to Uganda has been delayed. Still, Canada has been a prominent supporter in the G-7 of the need for multilateral debt relief. The overall handling of finances to poor nations has improved. But for the last five years, this grade has tracked progress toward the commitment Canada re-established at Rio. To be fair to the government, in recognition of the progress in multilateral and bilateral debt relief, this grade would be at about D-, if it were more broadly scoped.
To bring up this grade, the Chretien government must bring forward new and innovative approaches at the Denver G-7 Summit, June 20-22, 1997. Over the next five years, Canada must find the political will to meet the challenge of debt relief, alleviating poverty and providing the technological and financial assistance to assist developing countries in avoiding non-sustainable forms of development.
to Reduce Canada's Greenhouse Gas Emissions
1993 Grade: D
1994 Grade: C+
1995 Grade: D+
1996 Grade: D-
1997 Grade: F
Greenhouse gas emissions
The federal Government gets a failing grade on climate change for:
*Abandoning its commitment to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions at
1990 levels by the year 2000.
*Abandoning, in its latest election platform, its commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions 20 per cent by 2005.
*Its failure to show leadership internationally in climate negotiations.
*Its failure to show leadership nationally with respect to federal/provincial negotiations on climate change.
*Its failure to ensure equal access to tax advantages for the renewable energy sector as compared to the fossil fuel sector.
Despite growing evidence that climate change is already well under way in Canada, and that climate change will be more severe over our vast land base than in other parts of the world, the federal Government has failed to act.
1996 was the wettest year on record in Canada with the insurance industry also recording its worst year ever for property claims: $700 million. Total property damage was $1.5 billion with flooding in July 1996 in the Saguenay region causing $1 billion in property losses - Canada's first billion dollar loss.
Flooding this past spring in southern Manitoba also is expected to generate record losses. Warmer temperatures evaporate more water and a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour. As a result, there is more water available to condense in a precipitation event: rain or snow. Overall precipitation has increased about 20 per cent in Canada since the 1970s with much of this increase occurring in winter. North Dakota and Southern Manitoba recorded record levels of snowfall this past winter. Rapid warming in spring, combined with the heavy snowpack, led to melting before the frozen ground had thawed leading to little infiltration and high runoff. This scenario is likely to become more common and is consistent with what climate models predict.
Significant declines in Great Lakes water levels, average temperature increases three to four times the global rate, increased heat waves, droughts (more days between precipitation events are expected) and extreme events like flash floods from heavy storms in summer and springtime snowmelt will become increasingly common in Canada if greenhouse gas concentrations are allowed to double in the atmosphere. A doubling from pre-industrial levels is expected to occur sometime between 2030 - 2050. That is within the lifetime of our children.
Impacts are so serious that they should be avoided. That is, a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere IS NOT A GOAL. A doubling is to be avoided and by a wide margin. This requires reductions in global emissions beginning now and becoming increasingly stringent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes that reduction of 50 per cent and more are required from 1990 levels to prevent disastrous climate change.
If Canada is to protect its environment and its people, global co-operation is required. That is, Canada will not be protected through domestic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions alone. On the other hand, global reductions will not occur if high per capita emitters like Canada fail to act at home.
It is in this context that Canada's official abandonment of its stabilization target is most disturbing. Rather than increasing its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the federal Government reacted to the news that its Voluntary Challenge and Registry Program would not lead to stabilization by 2000 by openly acknowledging its failure at international meetings.
Energy and environment ministers were told at its annual meeting last December that Canada would miss the stabilization goal by at least 8.2 percent. Ministers did nothing. There is no process in place to develop further measures and none is likely until well after the Third Conference of the Parties meeting scheduled for Kyoto, Japan this December.
That meeting is expected to complete negotiations on a protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions after the year 2000. The expectation is that these new commitments will now be legally binding. Canada has used the fact of this process as an excuse to ignore current "voluntary" commitments under the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Canada's position internationally on climate change has been based on excuses, self-serving rationalizations and a complete failure to take responsibility for its contribution to the problem.
Canada has provided weak support for a legally binding target saying that it can only support legally binding if it is "flexible with regard to timing and location." This is code for seeking commitments that require little or no action at home, and certainly not before 2010. Such a position is contrary to Canada's own interests: the longer we delay action at home, the more energy intensive our economy becomes as a result of unsustainable fossil fuel development and the failure to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Canada's economy will be hurt in the long run as other economies become more efficient, productive and competitive.
Protection of short-term fossil fuel interests also fails to recognize the broader base of the Canadian economy. Should the federal Government also not be acting on behalf of the other resource sectors: fisheries, forestry, agriculture, and tourism industries and the manufacturing sector (efficiency)? What of the protection of all Canadians by avoiding impacts on human health?
Steeper reduction commitments - like 20 per cent cuts by 2005 - would set Canada on a more sustainable economic development path as it would force investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Unfortunately, rather than seeing the advantages, particularly as it relates to job creation, the Liberals abandoned the commitment in its most recent election platform. Sierra Club's Rational Energy Program found that up to 1.5 million person years of work could be created in achieving reductions of up to 10 per cent. Energy megaprojects like the oil sands are expected to produce only 44,000 jobs for similar levels of investment.
Election platform commitments include:
Efforts to build public awareness of the problems and solutions presented
by climate change will be strengthened.
A new Liberal government will advance a new national transportation strategy that addresses fuel economy standards, fleet procurement policies, an inspection and maintenance program, and urban demand-side management.
A Liberal government will reinforce and broaden the Voluntary Challenge by challenging every greenhouse gas emitter - public, industrial, commercial, or individual - to implement all energy-efficiency improvements that pay for themselves within five years.
In consultation with stakeholders, a new Liberal government will design options for an emissions trading program for greenhouse gases that work within a Canadian context, while respecting the international framework.
The Liberal government will continue to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency through research and development support and tax policies. We will also help these emerging industries through our purchasing power produced from renewable energy for meeting the government's own electricity needs, using alternative transportation fuels in our own vehicles, and continuing to improve energy efficiency in our own facilities.
There are no goals with respect to efficiency improvements, renewable energy supply or reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The commitment to the purchase of Green Power from renewable energy is only for Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada operations in Alberta. The goal is to offset emissions that would be generated in government buildings using conventionally sourced electricity with electricity from renewable sources like wind, biomass, or solar. Initial commitments may be for purchases from biomass cogeneration. While generating electricity from wood waste does improve emissions, it is hardly "new" and does not advance the technology in any way. In addition, ALL federal departments must commit to Green Power to be meaningful.
Tax changes which support investment in renewable energy are welcome, but still not equivalent to the tax breaks the fossil fuel industry receives. The Canadian Renewable Energy and Conservation Expense (CRCE) is supposed to provide the renewable energy sector with tax support similar to that received by the fossil fuel sector under the Canadian Exploration Expense (CEE). CEE allows 100 per cent deduction of up to half of capital costs related to exploration. CRCE allows for 100 per cent deduction of only 5 - 10 per cent of capital costs for similar expenses related to renewable energy development. Clearly, more must be done.
Finance Minister Paul Martin also announced in the last budget allocation of $60 million over three years to support the use of advanced technologies in commercial buildings. This is a welcome move, but there are as yet no details on how this money will be used.
While these initiatives are helpful, they simply are not enough to compensate for lack of action on other fronts. The federal Government has simply failed to show leadership nationally. Cutbacks have left Environment Canada in particular with few resources on the policy and science side. As a result, little is being done to build constituencies among impact sectors and to bring federal and provincial officials along with respect to emerging information on climate change impacts in Canada. Effective partnerships are not being developed with other federal departments nor with provincial counterparts.
Short-term political interests aimed at increasing Liberal seats in the West have instead fixated the federal Government on tax breaks to encourage oil sands development and voluntary action on climate change. The Liberals have failed to increase their seats in the West, and all Canadians can only now hope that the federal Government will now move to act on behalf of all Canadians.
Commitment to Protect Biodiversity
1993 Grade: A (for ratification); C (for implementation)
1994 Grade: D
1995 Grade: C
1996 Grade: D
1997 Grade: D-
Despite Canada's persistent claims of international leadership on the protection of biodiversity, five years after Rio, Canada still has no legislation to protect endangered species, and is worryingly behind its own schedule for completion of the national park system. The record of the last year has been spotty, with a number of achievements on the parks file yet failure at protecting endangered species.
Endangered Species Legislation:
The development of endangered species legislation has occupied a substantial amount of time and energy from the environmental community, stakeholder and industry groups, provincial wildlife departments, as well as the Canadian Wildlife Service and the federal Environment Minister. Despite some individual good intentions along the way, the result of substantial efforts has been a dismal failure.
On October 31, 1996, former Environment Minister Sergio Marchi introduced the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act, Bill C-65, for First Reading. The bill was a cautious approach, legislating the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the body which compiles the endangered species list, establishing protection for listed species and their "residences," and setting out the process and requirements for recovery plans. There were many serious flaws in the government's approach. Firstly, Bill C-65 would have only applied to a fraction of endangered species in Canada. The federal government, contrary to the advice of numerous constitutional law experts and the Canadian Bar Association, took a very limited view of the scope of federal jurisdiction over species at risk of extinction. Rather than exert its authority to protect all species at risk in Canada, the federal government limited the scope of its actions to species found on federal land, aquatic species, and Migratory Birds Convention Act species. There was also a provision allowing for future regulations to protect animal species ranging across international borders, but without any option for recovery plans. A significant weakness in Bill C-65 was the replacement of COSEWIC with Cabinet as the decision-making body on the listing of species. Under C-65, COSEWIC would continue to make a list, but the legal impact of listing would only arise after Cabinet approval.
The Bill went to hearings held across Canada by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The Committee reported the Bill back to the House of Commons on March 3, 1997. The Committee strengthened the Bill in a number of areas, mandating the implementation of recovery plans through regulation, for example, by slightly expanding the definition of "residence," and, significantly, making federal protection of international species mandatory, including recovery planning. However, even after the Committee amendments, the Bill still was fraught with political discretion and loopholes, including the Cabinet decision-making role, the absence of automatic habitat protection, lack of power to regulate any habitat protection outside of federal lands and waters, a weakening of federal protection in the Territories and a series of powers to exempt activities from the Act, giving significant powers to undermine the act to the Ministers of Heritage, Environment or Fisheries.
Reaction to the amended bill was ferocious. In a co-ordinated campaign, largely orchestrated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, resource-based industries from fisheries, agriculture and forestry attacked the bill. There were full page ads in newspapers from 28 British Columbia resource groups, heavy pressure through phone campaigns to individual Members of Parliament and the dissemination of a considerable amount of false information. Claims were made to MP's that Bill C-65 would halt commercial fishing if rare seaweed was nearby, or stop B.C. logging if a plant was at risk. The industry lobby against the Bill was very effective. On March 21, 1997, the government responded with a series of its own amendments which took the Bill from being marginally better than nothing to a dangerous step backward from voluntary efforts. The amendments slashed many improvements made by the Parliamentary Committee, in some cases weakening the language from the original at First Reading. Specific amendments to exempt commercial bycatch (the accidental catch of non-target species in the fishery), significantly weakened a bill only applying to three areas -- one of them aquatic. A requirement that recovery plans' cost-benefit analyses pay particular attention to the "socio-economic costs and benefits" was also added.
The March 21 amendments to Bill C-65 were so destructive that the Sierra Club of Canada issued a call to the government to withdraw them, restoring the version of Bill C-65 as reported back to the House by the Committee. In our press release, Sierra Club's Executive Director, Elizabeth May, described the bill as a "permitting system for legal extinctions" and urged that it not be passed in its present form.
Bill C-65 died on the Order Paper when the federal election was called.
The failure to initially deliver effective legislation and then to allow it to be substantially worsened through ill-conceived last-minute amendments to placate industry lobbies does not reflect well on the government's commitment to species at risk, in particular, or biodiversity, in general. In the Liberal Red Book 2 issued as the campaign platform in the last federal election, the government declared itself "committed to legislation to identify, protect, and recover those species at risk within federal jurisdiction."
In the interests of endangered species, newly appointed Minister Christine Stewart should scrap Bill C-65. Early in the next session, the Government should go back to the drawing board and, with the active involvement of all interested parties, develop legislation that really protects species. Canada needs endangered species legislation, but the goal is not legislation at any cost. The legislation must be an improvement over current voluntary efforts. Bill C-65 was not.
Protected Areas: C
Once again this year, achievements in this area help to bring up the federal biodiversity grade. The Chretien government, in its first mandate, only managed to add two national parks to the national parks system, as well as setting aside land for park establishment in two areas of the Northwest Territories. The federal government also obtained endangered habitat for a Gulf Islands National Park, negotiated additions to the Prince Edward Island National Park, but yet to be finalised, and released boundaries for the proposed Manitoba Lowlands National Park. Since last year, a new park was created in the North West Territories, Tuktut Nogait, adding to last year's creation of the Wapusk Park in Manitoba. The set-aside of lands in Wager Bay and Northern Bathurst Island, announced by Prime Minister Chretien at the World Conservation Congress in Montreal was also welcome news. In total, over 60,000 square kilometres were protected this year.
Full marks are accorded to Heritage Minister Sheila Copps for strong protection of the over-developed Banff National Park. Minister Copps accepted the recommendations of the Bow Valley Study, including requirements to close down an airstrip and end a highway expansion.
However, it is hard, even in a year of new park creation to give more than a passing grade. While the Liberals maintain their commitment to complete the park system by the year 2000, they have drastically cut the resources of Parks Canada. The parks system is still only 62% complete in terms of terrestrial parks. The marine parks system has only 3 out of 29 natural areas protected. With only three years left until the terrestrial parks system goal, fifteen additional parks must be created. The Auditor General has already warned that the government will not meet its target for park completion. But wilderness is not in a deep freeze. Options for protection of critical ecological areas are being foreclosed by development pressures with each passing year.
Meanwhile, the ecological integrity of existing parks is at risk due to budget cuts. According to the Auditor General's study of November 1996, two thirds of Canada's national parks are already suffering significant ecological deterioration. The report was highly critical of Parks Canada for lacking essential information on the sustainable level for tourism and park ecology. The report expressed concern that the pressure on parks to become profit generating centres would compromise their primary purpose -- protecting representative areas of Canada's natural heritage: "We are concerned that Parks Canada's ability to preserve ecological integrity and ensure sustainable park use will be severely challenged."
The planned staff reductions at Parks Canada are on track with an expected loss of 2,000 people. It appears that these cuts are falling disproportionately on interpretative and naturalist staff. The conversion of National Parks to business centres with the impending privatisation of services within national parks is another cause of concern. If the Chretien government is serious about the commitment to national parks, a commitment repeated in this year's Red Book 2, then it must reverse the budget cuts, retain its superb professional staff and increase the budget to allow for new park acquisition and protection of new parks as they are created. New parks do not have an urgent need for interpretation centres and trails. But there is an urgent need for adequate wilderness protection representing all of Canada's terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
to the Federal Wetlands Policy: D
As reported in the 1996 Rio Report Card, the Department of Public Works failed to protect an important wetland on their property in Aylmer Quebec. Once the construction of additional buildings and headquarters for the Museum of Nature was well underway, the Minister of Heritage Sheila Copps ordered that another wetland, three times the size of the devastated Museum of Nature site be found and placed in permanent protection to maintain the federal "no net loss" of wetland policy. In the last year little progress toward this objective has been made. But as the Museum enters new management, the identification of a site for compensation finally appears to be on track.
Marine Biodiversity: D
The issues of fisheries management are covered elsewhere in the report card. But the actions of DFO in this year, in blocking effective endangered species legislation, lobbying international scientists to remove the Northern Cod from the IUCN "Red List," preventing COSEWIC from listing the Atlantic Cod as an endangered species, and opening the cod fishery off Newfoundland just in advance of the last federal election, would bring down the country's biodiversity grade. This pattern of irresponsible decision-making, placing the survival of a species at risk, borders on the criminal.
In terms of protected areas, the federal government has not improved its record. No new marine protected areas (MPAs) were created this year. The commitment of the previous federal government as set forth in the 1990 Green Plan -- to establish three new MPAs by 1996 -- has clearly been abandoned. In fact, no new MPA has been created since 1990.
The one bright spot was the passage of the Canada Oceans Act which contains provisions to allow the creation of MPAs. Consultations on this mechanism have begun under DFO. However, while the new Oceans Act was welcome, it failed to recognise the effects of destructive fishing gear on biodiversity and habitat. The new MPA unit in DFO has only three people to manage marine parks on the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coastal and oceanic waters -- three people to develop and manage MPAs for an area of over 6.5 million square kilometres.
The good news is that the newly appointed Minister of Fisheries, David
Anderson, has a long record of concern for the environment. Perhaps he
will be able to bring conservation concerns into the Department.
Commitment to Review and Reform Pesticide Policies
1993 Grade: F
1994 Grade: C
1995 Grade: D
1996 Grade: C-
1997 Grade: F
The reform of pesticide legislation is another promise "missing in action" between Red Book 1 and Red Book 2. Red Book 2 does not even mention pesticides, much less reform of the Pest Control Products Act. The only promising inference can be drawn from the Red Book 2 comment that "we need to understand endocrine disrupters, for example, and how they affect the development and reproductive abilities of organisms."
Despite indications from the office of the former Minister of Health that amendments to the Pest Control Products Act were imminent, the legislation never made it to First Reading -- apparently victim of the tortuous tobacco legislation and objections from other government departments, notably Industry Canada. The outdated and outmoded Act continues to regulate pesticides in Canada.
Meanwhile, the demise of the Green Plan, without subsequent funding, reduces the flow of resources to sustainable agriculture and on-farm development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies.
The Department concentrated its reform efforts almost entirely on developing
the cost recovery plans for pesticide registration. Rather than consult
broadly, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency confined its discussions
to an industry unwilling to see realistic assessments of costs. PMRA exhausted
its political capital, time and resources on cost recovery, rather than
come through with the promised reforms to the legislation.
1993 Grade: F
1994 Grade: C
1995 Grade: B-
1996 Grade: D
1997 Grade: F
As noted in the last four years of Rio Report Cards, Agenda 21 contained many commitments to the principle of environmental assessment. Canada also committed to thorough environmental assessment for projects likely to have an impact on biodiversity, through the Convention on Biodiversity. Red Book 1 also made specific commitments to a strengthened and less discretionary Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). The only reference to CEAA in Red Book 2 is to consider an amendment to ensure that parks, protected areas and candidate protected sites are considered in project EA.
In the Sierra Club's election survey, the question was asked: Is your party prepared to commit to full adherence to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act? The Liberal Party's entire response was "The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is binding on the Crown."
The Liberal Party response underrates their ability to circumvent and inconsistently apply the law binding on the Crown. Few panel reviews have been conducted since the Act was proclaimed. The government has refused to conduct EA on projects for which they had any discretion to avoid reviews, such as increased logging along the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, adjacent to Riding Mountain National Park. The Liberals allowed the Voisey's Bay assessment to be split, reviewing the infrastructure for development, prior to reviewing the nickel mining operation itself. This "split-assessment" approach was specifically rejected by the previous government, despite serious attempts to do so by Hydro Quebec for the Great Whale hydro-project.
The government is being sued over at least three decisions not to apply CEAA -- Sunpine Forest Products (Alberta), Port of Vancouver sewage facility expansion, and the Sierra Club of Canada action for judicial review of the $1.5 billion loan guarantee to finance CANDU reactor sales to China. A recent study for the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation by Andrew Nikiforuk, "The Nasty Game: The Failure of Environmental Assessment in Canada," revealed a pattern of avoidance and inconsistency. The report concluded, "Environmental assessment (EA) has become a cynical, irrational and highly discretionary federal policy in Canada. What should be a coherent and democratic filter to ensure that ecological and economic follies do not ruin Canada's natural riches has become a bureaucratic exercise that is neither cost-effective nor conservation-minded."
The failing grade for 1997, the first "F" on this file since
Chretien took office is primarily due to the high-handed and anti-democratic
way in which the government sought to avoid environmental assessment, particularly
of the financing of CANDU sales to China.
Agenda 21 Commitment to Make Trade and Environment Mutually Supportive
1993 Grade: F
1994 Grade: F
1995 Grade: F-
1996 Grade: F
1997 Grade: F
Agenda 21 called for the environmental content of trade to be considered and for conscious efforts to ensure that the increasingly global and unregulated marketplace would not destroy the planet. At the same time that the Rio negotiations were taking place, the Uruguay Round of the GATT talks was grinding ahead without any concern about the profound impacts trade liberalisation would have on the environment.
As the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held its first ministerial in December, 1996 in Singapore, it was clear that the trade liberalisation agenda has moved much more quickly and much more effectively than the set of commitments made at the Earth Summit. Political will and political capital have all been staked on the trade arena and the environment and development issues of UNCED have been removed from the back-burner and placed in the deep freeze. For example, United Nations Environment Programme head, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, was dis-invited from speaking at the WTO plenary.
In Singapore, Canada pushed hard for the WTO to place negotiations of a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) on the global trade agenda. Due to objections from developing countries, the WTO put the MAI issue into a discussion and study agenda. Canada and the U.S. are pursuing the active negotiation of the MAI through the OECD. This agreement would extend the benefits of "like-product" trade disciplines to investments. It would be the first of the trade liberalisation agreements to explicitly convey rights to transnational corporations equivalent to rights of nation states.
Global trade rules have tended to undermine domestic environmental protection. For instance, the first decision of a dispute resolution panel under the WTO was to strike down a regulation under the U.S. Clean Air Act on reformulated gasoline, thus increasing air pollution in the U.S. in order to conform to the strictures of narrowly construed GATT-rules. The requirements in the Biodiversity Convention for the "equitable sharing of benefits" from traditional knowledge of biodiversity is also undermined by the GATT's Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
In November 1997, Canada will welcome the leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum. These heads of government, from 28 countries including China, Indonesia, the United States, the Philippines and others, come to Canada under the pretence that they are "heads of economies." The notion that a nation state exists for purposes other than service to its prime economic actors is being seriously eroded.
Canada has, in international negotiations, been environmentally unfriendly within the WTO and APEC. The zeal for Team Canada and overseas trade missions of all Canadian Premiers and the Prime Minister have now been enshrined in Red Book 2. The Liberal Party campaign platform in 1997 promised the creation of a Trade Promotion Agency to continue and expand on such missions.
As noted in the environmental assessment section of the report card, the decision to guarantee a loan to China in the amount of $1.5 billion arguably violated the environmental assessment act. Federal Cabinet actually passed a regulation less than three weeks before the deal was signed in Shanghai seeking to limit the Canadian public's ability to review information.
Perhaps new Minister of International Trade, Sergio Marchi, will be able to integrate some of his past experience as Minister of Environment into the portfolio. Environmental awareness has been completely absent from the trade file.
to Conservation of Marine Biodiversity
1993 Grade: B-
1994 Grade: F
1995 Grade: C
1996 Grade: F
1997 Grade: F
Agenda 21 included commitments to ensure the "conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources". As well, Canada pushed fishery conservation issues at Rio, particularly those related to high seas over-fishing.
In the last year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has fulfilled an extremely irresponsible role in blocking effective endangered species legislation and lobbying hard, both domestically and internationally, against the listing of Atlantic Cod, Gadus morhua, as an endangered species. In the same week in which DFO prevented the recommendation to list Atlantic Cod as an endangered species before COSEWIC, former Fisheries Minister Fred Mifflin announced the re-opening of the fishery off Newfoundland. The "limited" opening was soon described as the "election fishery," being announced ten days before the writ was dropped for the federal election.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, salmon stocks are collapsing. Salmon in British Columbia are going extinct. To date, 142 distinct races of salmon have gone extinct, while 624 more are at risk. Much of this is due to habitat destruction as a result of irresponsible logging practices, urban development, excessive drawdown from salmon streams by Hydro and industry, as well as the overfishing of vulnerable stocks. While DFO may brag about record numbers of sockeye, these big run years are largely the result of hatchery production in only a few big rivers. Overall, many populations of wild salmon are at risk. Despite the fact that the Coho are on the edge of extinction, DFO has allowed a kill fishery for sports fishers. DFO also continues to allow by-catch of Coho in the sockeye fishery.
Meanwhile, the East Coast salmon fishery is also at risk, threatened by a myriad of problems. Against the advice of international fisheries scientists, former Minister Mifflin opened the Labrador fishery, intercepting Atlantic Salmon heading back to streams in Quebec, Atlantic Canada and New England to spawn. If DFO continues to take such large risks with the health of the stock, the only remaining Atlantic Salmon may be in fish farms.
The herring fishery is also grossly mismanaged, going over quota each year. Other than in 1995 and 1996, the herring seine fishery was over quota every year for ten years. In this year's seine fishery for herring roe, the fleet exceeded the quota on the central coast by over 100 per cent. In Barkley Sound, south of Clayoquot Sound, the fishery went over quota by 70 per cent.
As noted in previous report cards, the amount of by-catch continues to be a problem. In 1996, Greenpeace tracked DFO observer reports and found of over 21 million pounds of fish and marine species had been dumped overboard as by-catch in the annual West Coast groundfish trawl fishery.
Former Minister Mifflin's plan for fleet reduction on the West Coast is an unmitigated disaster. While claiming to focus on conservation through the reduction of catch capacity in the fleet, the plan has reduced the number of small, owner-operated vessels, while leaving the catching capacity fairly constant. The "Mifflin Plan" has been a social disaster for coastal communities while only marginally lowering the fleet's overall catching capacity.
Another innovation, the Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ), constitutes a give-away of common property to individual fishing enterprises. DFO has essentially been privatising a common property resource.
The only pluses on the fisheries file this year were the passage of the Canada Oceans Act, as noted in the biodiversity section, and the use of some risk averse management approaches in some of the salmon fisheries.
But overall, DFO merits a large "F" for its failure to learn lessons of over-fishing, inappropriate harvesting technologies and a relentless desire to ensure that the Atlantic Cod and many stocks of wild salmon will go extinct before they can ever be listed as endangered.
Commitment to Indigenous
1993 Grade: D
1994 Grade: C+
1995 Grade: F
1996 Grade: F
1997 Grade: F
The failure of the federal government to respond to the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Issues earns this year's "F". After five years and $58 million were spent producing the report, the Royal Commission report was finally released. The key recommendation called for new spending of $2 billion to address the urgent crisis in aboriginal communities across Canada. The Royal Commission Report chronicled unacceptable levels of poverty, illness, unemployment and social problems in First Nations communities. It documented a history of racism, abuse and exploitation.
Yet, more than six months after the Royal Commission released its recommendations, there has been nothing but deafening silence in response. The question of justice for aboriginal peoples failed to raise any level of debate in the recent federal election campaign.
New Minister for Indian and Northern Affairs Jane Stewart should address the Royal Commission recommendations as soon a possible. Resolution of land title issues across Canada should be expedited.
Incorporating Environmental Concerns Into Every Aspect of Government Decision Making
1993 Grade: not graded
1994 Grade: B+
1995 Grade: D
1996 Grade: D-
1997 Grade: D
The Chretien government, which began its mandate with impressive commitments to review fiscal policy for its environmental impacts on government decision making, failed in its first government to fulfil those promises. Chief among them was the commitment to conduct a baseline study of barriers and disincentives to sustainability throughout the fiscal system. Red Book 2 does not repeat this promise.
The Liberals also committed in Red Book 1 to an over-haul of Canada's primary toxic chemical legislation, The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). The Act, which was passed into law in 1988, has a statutory requirement for a five-year review. The mandatory review began in 1993. In June 1995, the Standing Committee on Environment and Development of the House of Commons issued a strong and impressive report, "It's About Our Health!" Unfortunately, its many recommendations were severely watered down in the government's amendments. In the plus column were improvements in the implementation of the Toxic Substances Management Policy and strengthening of CEPA's ocean-dumping provisions.
But, in most respects, the Bill was feeble and disappointing. The Pollution Prevention provisions were slight and discretionary. The Toxic Chemicals Management Policy is far from the "sunsetting" program for specific toxic chemicals envisioned by the Committee. Environment Canada's ability to regulate biotechnology has been eroded and citizens' and workers' rights to ensure enforcement of CEPA are virtually negligible.
In Red Book 2, the Liberals committed to return to the amendments to CEPA early in their next mandate. It is instructive to remember that the CEPA review process was mandated to occur every five years. One can wonder if Parliament in 1988 imagined that a mandated review of the legislation every five years would itself take five years to complete. The failure to deal with CEPA in the ways recommended by the Standing Committee, allowing industry lobbying to emasculate the legislation, calls for a poor mark on efforts to integrate environmental concerns into every aspect of government decision-making. Things have now regressed to the point that environmental concerns are excluded from environmental decision-making.
The Liberal government avoids a failing grade on this category due to
one partially fulfilled Red Book promise to create an Environmental Auditor
General. As noted in last year's Rio Report Card, the new amendments to
the Auditor General Act are not as sweeping as the powers promised
for the commissioner in the Red Book. Since last year's report card, the
Environmental Auditor General has been appointed. Brian Emmett issued his
first annual report in the absence of departmental sustainability plans
to be audited. Instead, Emmett commented on the failure of the government
to meet its international environmental commitments. He signalled that
this would be an area of on-going monitoring.
Hopes are high for the new Environment Minister Christine Stewart to improve this mark. She and Paul Martin are the only members of the Cabinet who were present at the Earth Summit. Five years later, it is a good sign that the current Environment Minister is a Rio veteran.
1993 Grade: not graded
1994 Grade: A
1995 Grade: C+
1996 Grade: C-
1997 Grade: D
The federal role in forest issues is extremely limited, being restricted to science, research, data collection and international negotiations.
On the international front, Canada went out on a limb promoting a global forest convention. This has proven extremely controversial within the environmental community. Initially, prior to Rio, environmental groups favoured a global forest convention. But as Canada's support for this vehicle has increasingly concentrated, not on halting deforestation, but in providing protections for Canada's trade in forest products, the environmental community has largely withdrawn their support. The negotiations leading to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests to the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development were immediately preceded by unfortunate remarks by Anne McLellan, former Minister of Natural Resources. In response to U.S. industry opposition to a Forest Convention, Minister McLellan said the convention was needed in order to prevent Canadian trade being "held hostage to environmental terrorism". The Minister attempted to clarify her statement to environmental groups, explaining that her reference to environmental terrorism was intended to describe governments resorting to trade barriers, not to environmental groups. Nonetheless, the comments were not helpful and reinforced the scepticism with which forest activists now view Canada's intentions in promoting a global forest convention.
Meanwhile, the scientific and research functions of the Canadian Forest Service have been steadily eroded while the propaganda function is in high gear. The Canadian government now includes in nearly every document that Canada has "protected 12% of its forests." This claim is found in Canada's report to the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, as well as in the Annual State of Canada's Forests reports. The figure is also compared to various European countries in a transparent attempt to mislead conservation-minded Europeans: "the area of protected forests is roughly equal in size to the total forest land in Finland, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, combined." The representative from the Canadian Environmental Network Forest Caucus who served as a member of Canada's delegation to the IPF, Martin von Mirbach, remarked, "While they were at it, why didn't they add Lichetenstein, Greenland, Antarctica and Narnia to the list?" Martin von Mirbach continued, "I challenge whoever wrote this nonsense to explain with a straight face exactly what purpose it is intended to serve."
In reality, less than four per cent of Canada's forests have been protected. The 12% figure is based on a guesstimate of all the forest areas unloggable due to steep slopes, uncommercial quality, and set-backs along highways and watercourses, plus parks, which may or may not be honoured. It is extremely dishonest and brings some otherwise good work of the Canadian Forest Service into disrepute.
1997 Rio Report Card
Conclusion For Federal Government
Five years after Rio, the federal government of Canada has the lowest set of marks since Sierra Club began the Rio Report Card project in 1992.
The tragedy is not in the political positioning of issues, or politicians. It is in the very real environmental damage that is being done while governments ignore these issues.
The recent federal elections have dramatically altered the composition of the federal House of Commons. It is too early to tell if the reduced Liberal majority and presence of four other Parties with official status bodes well for Canada's Rio commitments in the coming years. The experience of the last three and a half years suggests that the newly configured House of Commons is unlikely to be worse. The absence of strong environmental voices from the ranks of the opposition parties has been a factor in the disastrous environmental record of the Chretien government.
The recent shuffle of June 11, 1997 arguably enhances the environmental composition of the Cabinet. New Environment Minister Christine Stewart was present at the Earth Summit in 1992, as the Liberal Party's Development Critic. She comes to the portfolio with an impressive background. Removing Anne McLellan from Natural Resources may help as she has been consistently obstructive in meeting Canada's Rio commitments. Her replacement, Ralph Goodale, comes from Agriculture where he was not seen as helpful to environmental priorities. However, if the Prime Minister exerts some leadership in negotiating carbon reductions, perhaps the Canadian government can begin to act like an environmentally aware team, rather than the fractious battleground the Liberal Cabinet has been for the last three and a half years.
Internationally, changes in government in France and the United Kingdom suggest some potential for new momentum in the follow-up to Rio sessions, whether it be for the G-7 in Denver, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in New York, or for the Kyoto negotiations for a binding protocol to control and reduce greenhouse gasses, set for December.
Five years of no progress toward Earth Summit commitments is five years
Back to main
Rio Report Page
Back to National Office Home Page
Copyright 1997, Sierra Club of Canada