Sierra Club of Canada - Rio Report Card


.1999



TABLE OF CONTENTS - Federal Government

Federal Report Card Summary

1. Commitment to Overseas Development Assistance

2. Commitment to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

3. Commitment to Protect Biodiversity

4. Commitment to Review and Reform Pesticide Policies

5. Commitment to Environmental Assessment

6. Agenda 21 Commitment to Make Trade and Environment Mutually Supportive
 
7. Commitment to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Living Marine Resources

8. Incorporating Environmental Concerns into Every Aspect of Government Decision Making

9. Forests

Conclusion


TABLE OF CONTENTS - Provincial Governments

Provincial Report Card Summary

Newfoundland

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

New Brunswick

Quebec

Ontario

Manitoba

Saskatchewan

Alberta

British Columbia

Northwest Territories

Yukon


Notes



G.H. Brundtland High School
M. Strong, Principal


SEVENTH ANNUAL RIO REPORT CARD

Curriculum: Based on commitments made at the United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development, June 1992

Students: Jean, Paul, Ralph, Allan, Christine and the Government of Canada
 

SUBJECT


GRADE


COMMENTS


1. Commitment to increase Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7% of GNP.

D

Passing grade but much more effort required.

2. Commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

Incomplete

Ralph and Christine have a mammoth assignment.

3. Commitment to protect biodiversity.

D-

Species and spaces, barely a passing grade.

4. Commitment to review and reform pesticide policies. 

D

This assignment is seriously overdue!

BONUS MARK on Bovine Growth Hormone

A+

Allan's learning that health comes first. Now he must apply this to pesticide regulation.

5. Commitment to environmental assessment of projects.

F

No commitment, no effort!

6. Agenda 21 commitment to make trade and environment mutually supportive.

F

High marks for trade and globalization boys! Failure here.

7. Conservation of living marine resources.

C

David trying hard, but the department is pulling in the other direction.

8. Incorporating environmental concerns.

F

"Abject failure" says Brian Emmett, and we agree!

9. Forests.

D

Review earlier work on convention and get back to basics.

Return to Federal Government Table of Contents listing



G.H. Brundtland High School
M. Strong, Principal

SEVENTH ANNUAL RIO REPORT CARD

Curriculum: Based on commitments made at the
United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development, June 1992

PROVINCE


SUBJECT

GRADE


COMMENTS
Newfoundland Biodiversity 


Climate Change

D


F

Passing grade, but needs improvement.

Forget the mega-project!

Nova Scotia Biodiversity 


Toxic Chemicals/Pollution
 

Climate Change

C-


D


Russell's work is inconsistent.

Mines, toxic coal and gas.

Protected areas should be just that

Prince Edward Island Biodiversity 

Climate Change 

C-


C+


Mediocre work, you can do better.

New Brunswick Biodiversity 

Climate Change

D

F


New student, we await results.

Quebec Biodiversity 

Climate Change

F

C+

Clear cut failure.

Head of class.

Ontario Biodiversity 

Climate Change

D-

F

Anti-environmental government protects new areas, but still needs a lot of work.

Manitoba Biodiversity 

Climate Change

D+

F


Gary did better on nature but needs to study climate.

Saskatchewan Biodiversity 

Climate Change

F

F

The worst grade in the country. Roy, what are you doing?

Alberta Biodiversity 

Climate Change

D-

D
-


Most improved student.

British Columbia Biodiversity 

Climate Change 

D- 

D-


Under-achievement from a previous class star.

Northwest Territories Biodiversity 

Climate Change

C

C-


Good and steady.

Yukon Biodiversity 

Climate Change

C-

C-


Mining and forestry bring grade down.

Return to Provincial Governments Table of Contents listing



FEDERAL GOVERNMENT


1. Commitment to increase Overseas Development Assistance to 0.7% of GNP

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1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: B

1995 Grade: F

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: D

1999 Grade: D

At the 1992 Earth Summit, the Canadian government reconfirmed its historic commitment to have our overseas development assistance (ODA) reach 0.7% of GDP. In the 1993 election, the Liberal "Red Book" committed to meet the 0.7% target. But in every year of the Chrétien government, the level of ODA has fallen. Thus, from an ODA level of 0.45% of GDP at Rio, this (1998-99) year ODA fell to 0.29% of GDP.

While reducing poverty is the stated over-arching goal of Canada's aid programme; there is no official estimate of the degree to which Canadian ODA is targeted to meet that goal. A recent study estimated that poverty-focused projects comprised only 27% of bilateral disbursements in 1996-97, and had declined significantly in the 1990s. In another CIDA study, fewer than 20% of the projects between 1995-1997 were identified as poverty reduction programmes.

The Sierra Club of Canada supports the call from the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) for a 60% allocation in CIDA's budget for programmes that directly improve the conditions and rights of people living in poverty and that the remaining 40% be directed to activities that enable poverty eradication. (CCIC's full policy paper in support of this recommendation can be found at http://www.web.net/ccic-ccci).

In this last federal budget, retroactive increases of $237 million, plus $50 million for a one-time only increase in 1999-2000, and a similar $25 million for 2000-2001, were provided to the basic ODA budget. But if the additional resources are not added retroactively in next spring's budget, Canada's aid budget will fall below that of 1998-99. Without additional resources ODA, 1999-2000 will see our overall ODA slip back to 0.27% of GDP.

Finance Minister Paul Martin does deserve credit for moving Canada's position on multilateral debt relief. As the Jubilee 2000 campaign picks up steam, we hope Canada will improve this mark next year through action on debt and increased ODA -- effectively targeted to poverty reduction. ‹


2. Commitment to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

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1993 Grade: D

1994 Grade: C+

1995 Grade: D+

1996 Grade: D-

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: Incomplete

1999 Grade: Incomplete

As noted in last year's Rio Report Card, the federal government's response to the Kyoto commitment to a 6% reduction in greenhouse gases, [against 1990 levels, to be achieved between 2008-2012], was to convene a series of Issues Tables. For the last year, 450 "stakeholders" have beavered away on 14 different "Tables." The clear winner in this activity has been the consulting businesses, as each table had millions available for research. Thousands of pages of reports have been generated. Much of this may be of value, but most participants, whether from business or environmental groups, have come to doubt that the process will result in an implementation plan.

Easy and sensible approaches have been put on the back burner. An example is the proposal to make employer provided public transit passes a non-taxable benefit. This tiny measure was supported by a broad range of stakeholders (including the Taskforce on Barriers and Disincentives to Sustainable Economic Development convened by the Ministers of Finance and Environment nearly five years ago), would have made nary a dent in the fiscal system, and would have helped send a useful, if faint, signal to support mass transit.

The only measures in the 1998 budget to assist with climate change was an improved capital cost allowance to avoid the flaring of gas, encouraging "solution gas" to be captured, and a grant of $10 million to Canadian municipalities to develop their own capacity on the issues. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is sending increasingly strong signals that we ignore rising greenhouse gas emissions at our peril. 1998 was the hottest year on record, with July of that year being the hottest month ever recorded. Ferocious storms destroying life and property around the world have become a steady diet on the evening news. Heat waves in India are causing deaths with temperatures soaring above 50 degrees C. Killer tornadoes of unprecedented strength are being witnessed. Droughts plague much of the world, with unprecedented drought now being seen in northern Mexico.

While no single storm event can be positively linked to climate change, it is now probable that severe weather events are likely due to climate change. The impacts of climate change are likely to include nasty "surprises" which computer modelling of climate systems had not anticipated. Altered ocean currents could have huge and sudden impacts. Climate systems are not likely to change slowly over time, but to reach a state of being destabilised from which a sudden adjustment takes place. The computer models of the Hadley Meteorological Centre in the United Kingdom have forecast that the northern Amazon may become a treeless desert, due to such sudden shifts in ocean currents, with a consequential impact on rainfall patterns.

All the current science has been premised on a doubling of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. Given the widespread lack of action to meet Kyoto targets, which are inadequate to avoid an atmospheric doubling, it is increasingly likely that human activities will generate more than a doubling. The impacts of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with positive feedback loops from melting permafrost releasing methane to burning forests unleashing carbon have not been well analysed, nor has the worst-case scenario of climate change even been whispered to the public.


3. Commitment to Protect Biodiversity

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1993 Grade: A (for ratification); C (for implementation)

1994 Grade: D

1995 Grade: C

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: D-

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: D-

The protection of Canada's biological diversity is not much advanced over last year. There is still no legislation to protect endangered species. No new national parks have been established. No new national wildlife areas created.

Environmental groups have generally been prepared to accept delays in bringing in legislation to protect species at risk -- as long as the wait produced effective legislation. But indications are that the two-year "time-out" after the disastrous Bill C-65 has not resulted in the sought-after improvements. Based on the discussion papers posted lasted month by the Canadian Wildlife Service and testimony by Environment Minister Christine Stewart before the Standing Committee of the House of Commons, it would appear that on key issues the new bill will fall short.

Meanwhile, environmental groups and industry have joined forces to support their consensus approach to legislation. The Species at Risk Working Group (SARWG) is composed of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the National Agriculture Environment Committee, the Canadian Nature Federation, Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club of Canada. Key components of the industry-environmental consensus which do not appear to have been accepted by the federal government include listing by scientists, not by Cabinet, protection of habitat across Canada, compensation and tax incentives for affected landowners.

It is somewhat baffling that the consensus approach has not met with stronger support from Environment Canada, when it has bridged so much polarisation from previous rounds of legislative effort. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and many other environmental groups and industries have endorsed the SARWG approach. But apparently, Environment Canada is still struggling to get other federal government departments to accept the concept of habitat protection on federal land!

Meanwhile, the national park system is only 62% complete, with six months left in the federal government's long-standing promise to complete the system by the year 2000. Of the 39 national park natural regions across the country that require at least representative areas to be protected, 15 still have little or no protection. The virtual standstill in creation of national parks in the last several years makes it a near certainty that the federal government will fail the public in meeting its year 2000 promise.

Parks Canada is now an agency, run by a "CEO" instead of an Assistant Deputy Minister. The focus is on revenue recovery from parks activities. Ecological integrity within existing parks is still being compromised.

The federal government continues to lack core competency to understand and accurately assess the nation's biodiversity. Environment Commissioner Brian Emmett raised the loss of scientific capacity last year, and no steps have been taken to remedy the situation. For example, Canada's premiere museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature has not recovered from the slashing of five years ago, when the scientific staff was cut from 21 to 15 scientists. By comparison, the small state museum, the Missouri Botanical Garden, has 60 botanists! The Museum allowed its much admired publication, "Global Biodiversity" to be discontinued this year -- to allow for improved displays in the museum.

The grade, however, improved slightly due to the actions of Finance Minister Paul Martin in allocating $12 million in the 1998 federal budget to the creation of a global biosphere reserve, under UNESCO guidelines, for Clayoquot Sound.

In the coming year, the federal government must bring in effective endangered species legislation and move aggressively to complete the national parks system.


4. Commitment to Review and Reform Pesticide Policies

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1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: C-

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: D

More than a decade ago the previous federal government committed to an over-haul of the outdated and outmoded legislation governing pesticide use in Canada. The current government adopted that commitment as well in 1994. The Pest Control Products Act has been in force for over thirty years. It fails to deal with the many ingredients of pesticides, their synergistic effects, and the need to regulate specifically to protect the special vulnerabilities of children. At the Denver G-8 Summit in June 1997, the federal government committed itself to explicitly consider the special needs of children in setting acceptable levels for environmental contaminants.

The Federal Minister of Health, the Hon. Allan Rock, has indicated that the promised amendments to the Pest Control Products Act may be expected in the fall. In the last year, Minister Rock convened the Pest Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) which for the first time creates at least some access for the health and environment groups to have limited avenues to advise the Minister. The new amendments must meet the government's commitments to protect children, to deal with endocrine-disrupting chemicals and to provide full "right to know" provisions to the public. They must provide for fast-track approval of less toxic alternatives to currently registered pesticides, or to de-register outdated products with existing less-toxic alternatives.

Key information about the constituent parts of pesticides is kept secret to protect the profits of chemical manufacturers. There is no mandatory reporting of adverse effects. Industry has been asked to provide information on sales of pesticides, but has not complied.

As Parliamentary Commissioner on Environment and Sustainable Development, Brian Emmett, reported on May 25, 1999, of the OECD countries, only Canada and the Slovak Republic do not routinely collect data on the volume of pesticide sold. The reason in Canada is that such information is considered "confidential business information."

Commissioner Emmett's report also highlights issues of long-standing concern to those observing pesticide regulation in Canada. His findings also note:

** The lack of scientific capacity to adequately assess the impacts of pesticides (as well as other toxic substances);

** That the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) operates as a "closed shop," unwilling and/or unable to share critical information, even with other federal departments;

** That PMRA, despite the instructions at its inception in 1995 to develop a programme for the re-evaluation of chemicals, has still not done so. By contrast, the U.S. E.P.A. has a programme for on-going re-evaluation, spending 25% more of the budget on revaluation of old chemicals than on registration of new ones (1997-98 figures);

** PMRA has no risk reduction strategy, dealing with chemicals one at a time.

To bring up this grade, we hope that Health Minister Allan Rock will bring forward amendments to the Pest Control Products Act, which will aggressively re-orient the system to the protection of public health and the environment.

Public pressure needs to be exerted to ensure that the legislation is strengthened.

BOVINE GROWTH HORMONE

THIS IS A SPECIAL BONUS MARK OF A+ TO MINISTER ALLAN ROCK FOR REJECTING REGISTRATION OF BOVINE GROWTH HORMONE. THIS IS THE FIRST A+ TO A FEDERAL MINISTER IN THE SEVEN-YEAR HISTORY OF THE RIO REPORT CARD PROCESS. IT IS HOPED THIS REJECTION OF AN UNECESSARY AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS PRODUCT IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF RE-ORIENTING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY TO PUT HUMAN HEALTH FIRST.


5. Commitment to Environmental Assessment

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1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: B-

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: F

There is no reason to improve the grade given last year. No reviews have been initiated by the Environment Minister using her discretionary powers. The federal government was found to have violated environmental assessment procedure in the Cheviot Mine case. The Sierra Club case challenging the sale of reactors to China without an environmental assessment is still before the courts.

This year marks the beginning of the five-year review of the effectiveness of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, mandated by the law itself. The process promises to be long, with many opportunities for the failures of the Act and the absence of political leadership to be identified. The challenge for the government will be to use the five-year review as an occasion to re-commit to the principles of environmental assessment.


6. Agenda 21 Commitment to Make Trade and Environment Mutually Supportive

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1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: F-

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: F

Seven years ago, when Canada's Prime Minister joined the leaders of nearly every country on earth in endorsing agreements to protect our life support system, the World Trade Organisation did not yet exist. The comparison between lack of progress on the Rio agenda and the stunning progress in subjugating domestic laws to global corporate rule pointedly establishes that the only difference between the two is political will.

The last year has seen the most appalling and anti-democratic abdication of responsibility for domestic environmental regulation in the face of trade challenges. The cave-in to Ethyl Corp., the U.S.-based manufacturer of gasoline additives, lead and the manganese-based product, MMT, represented the low point for the Chrétien government's already pathetic environmental record.

MMT was banned by the Canadian government in 1997 due to the increased air pollution caused when MMT compromised the air pollution control devise on automobiles. In addition, the role of manganese as a potent brain toxin is well known. In Opposition, Jean Chrétien had labelled MMT "an insidious neurotoxin." Health Canada failed to ensure adequate testing of the lead-substitute, while the U.S. E.P.A. rejected registration. It was left to Environment Canada to take action.

Prior to the existence of NAFTA, the banning of MMT by the House and Senate would have been conclusive, but with the benefit of Chapter 11, Ethyl Corp. had another card to play. Ethyl sued Canada for $350 million. A three-person tribunal was established to hold a binding arbitration, behind closed doors. Trade Minister, Sergio Marchi, who had been responsible for banning MMT when Environment Minister, favoured opening the tribunal, but Ethyl objected. No expert evidence of the threats posed by MMT to Canadians' health and environment was allowed. Nothing was relevant except Ethyl's claim that its "investor rights" in Canada had been compromised.

Following a ruling by the Interprovincial Trade Disputes Panel, on a complaint by Alberta on behalf of refinery interests, that the MMT law violated inter-provincial trade rules, Prime Minister Chrétien was widely reported to have told Industry Minister John Manley to "fix" the Ethyl suit.

As a result, Canada did not take the case through even the full NAFTA process. Rather, our government removed the ban on MMT, gave Ethyl Corp. $19 million in damages, and issued a public statement, from both Minister Manley and Environment Minister Christine Stewart, that Canada had never had adequate evidence to justify banning MMT. Both Ministers stated that there was no evidence sufficient to ban MMT.

While the world community was mobilising against prospects of the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, Canada was demonstrating to the world the risks of enshrining a liberal definition of "investor rights" in trade agreements.

The day after our capitulation to Ethyl, a further Chapter 11 suit was filed by S.D. Myers, an Ohio-based hazardous waste company, against Canada's nine month ban on the export of PCBs. Since then, two other Chapter 11 suits have been filed by US companies against Canada, one on water exports, another on forest export policies.

Recently, government members of the House Sub-Committee on International Trade disputed that MMT was re-registered based on the Ethyl Corp. challenge. In revisionist history, bureaucrats had persuaded them that the only reason for MMT's re-registration was the interprovincial trade panel ruling. If that interpretation held, there would have been no reason to give Ethyl Corp. $19 million. Neither would there have been any impediment to banning MMT immediately using the powers under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The truth is that the Chrétien government has worked internationally to ensure that trade rules have the effect of over-riding environmental and health concerns. Canada was an early and aggressive promoter of the MAI under former Trade Minister Art Eggleton, Canada has argued against environment and health regulations of other countries (against the European Union ban on hormone treated beef and against the French ban on asbestos), and Canada has opposed the precautionary principle.


7. Commitment to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Living Marine Resources

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1993 Grade: B-

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: C

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: D+

1999 Grade: C

The record here is spotty, with a handful of conservation triumphs amid a sea of risky DFO "business as usual" decisions.

This year, while failing to reduce the quota for the Newfoundland seal hunt, Fisheries Minister David Anderson still received points for refusing to increase the kill. Minister Anderson should extend the precautionary principle to seals. The current quota is still unsupported scientifically. Minister Anderson must be recognised as the first minister of fisheries to take the conservation of salmon seriously. The decision to allow no fishing of coho and other threatened salmon stocks was significant, but some DFO policies continue to threaten coho. The decision to allow a sports fishery for coho of catch-and-keep of 2 coho a day in two areas of BC is a slap in the face to first nations and a threat to coho survival.

Minister Anderson also deserves credit for creating Marine Protected Areas for the Bowie Sea Mount and hydrothermal vents on Juan de Fuca Ridge, both off British Columbians well as taking initial steps toward the protection of the "Gully," an enormous underwater canyon off Sable Island. At the request of DFO, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) continued restrictions on oil and gas exploration or development in the Gully. DFO has recommended that a core area of the Gully receive designation as a Marine Protected Area of Interest. The Gully extends 80 by 30 km and reaches depths of 2000 metres. It is home to rare undersea corals, bottlenose and sperm whales. The commendable steps taken this year expire at the end of 1999. Permanent protection of the Gully as a Marine Protected Are is required.

Another looming set of decisions relate to the potential lifting of the moratoria against oil and gas drilling on the west coast and on George's Bank off Nova Scotia. Both the provincial governments of Nova Scotia and British Columbia are under intense pressure from oil and gas interests to open up the coasts to more drilling. The federal government should be prepared to use its new powers under the Oceans Act to ensure that this does not occur.

The federal minister also received good marks this year for creation of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, headed by former Ambassador for the Environment John Fraser.

But the scene at DFO is still far from perfect. Conservation rhetoric runs the risk of being a green-wash for business as usual DFO policies. The increase in the cod quota off the south coast of Newfoundland gives cause for concern. No one in government has yet admitted that the primary culprit for the devastation of fish stocks -- the dragger fleet. So, draggers continue to annihilate the habitat for cod and other creatures in the hugely destructive shrimp fishery. If the cod ever do return, there is no sign that they would not be wiped out by a killer fleet of draggers once again. Stocks are also in trouble in the BC-Washington hake fishery, and there are troubling signs from the maritime lobster fishery.

DFO continues to support the privatisation of our fisheries through ITQs -- Individual Transferable Quotas. The use of ITQs promotes larger corporate fishers and larger ports and erodes the sustainability of more ecologically sound small-scale fishers and small coastal communities. We are also concerned about DFO's promotion of aquaculture on both coasts.

Although very controversial, on balance, credit is deserved for the Pacific
Salmon Treaty. While the politics of salmon are complex and highly charged, we simply do not have a strong enough fix on salmon runs to chance catching more in "good years". Between the competing interests of the US, Canadian, BC, and Alaskan governments, the only issue of importance is the conservation of salmon on both the east and west coasts, their survival remains in doubt. Although the treaty recently concluded is not perfect, having a treaty is far preferable to having none. In the absence of the treaty for the past 5 years, threatened stocks faced increased competitive fishing. The new treaty should bring new focus on co-operation and conservation. But there remain extremely serious concerns that this new treaty does not afford protection for endangered Canadian coho. The lack of any mechanism to really assess and monitor stocks, and the lack of commitment and/or funding by the federal government for assessment and monitoring put fish stocks in great peril.


8. Incorporating Environmental Concerns into Every Aspect of Government Decision Making

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1993 Grade: --

1994 Grade: B+

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: D-

1997 Grade: D

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: F

Another year of failure. As noted above, the government decision to reverse the ban on MMT was a spectacular indication that the environment simply does not count. The decision to import mixed oxide plutonium fuel, MOX fuel, without an environmental assessment is another indication that the government regards environmental requirements as a nuisance. In the U.S., the Department of Energy performed an environmental assessment, with public meetings in effected communities for the shipment of the test quantity of MOX.

Key indicators of the government's lack of interest in the environment and sustainable development can be found in the relative position of Environment Canada among the federal departments, and in the failure to fill the position of Ambassador for the Environment and Sustainable Development. This position has been vacant since September 1998 when then-Ambassador, the Hon. John Fraser, resigned to accept a position as Chair of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council in British Columbia. The government has not confirmed when, or if, it plans to announce Ambassador Fraser's successor.

Perhaps the most depressing indication of the government's view of the environment was the trashing of months of work by the Standing Committee on Environment on the amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. A full court press by the chemical manufacturers and their business lobby friends resulted in removing key provisions of the amended CEPA. Lost were efforts at phasing out toxic substances. The precautionary principle was over-ridden by economic concerns.

The Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development noted in his 1999 report, released May 25, 1999, the federal government lacks the ability to monitor and understand toxic substances, putting the health of Canadians at risk. This is a startling indictment of a government whose jurisdiction and role in this key area was recently confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The rights of Canadians to a safe and healthy environment have been sacrificed to economic interests.


9. Forests:

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1994 Grade: A

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: C-

1997 Grade: D

1998 Grade: D

1999 Grade: D

Canada has continued aggressive lobbying for a Global Forest Convention, but is rapidly losing support for what might have been a useful global conservation tool. Instead, Canada's version of a convention has been dubbed by Greenpeace International as the "chainsaw convention." Even the European Union, supporters of the concept since 1990, have withdrawn support.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Forest Service has allocated significant resources to the "Canada-Costa Rica Initiative" of expert consultations all around the world designed to identify elements of a forest convention.

The existing global conventions dealing with forests also raise cause for concern in Canada's approach. Canada has blocked the United Nations Convention for the Protection of Biological Diversity from becoming involved in the issues of protecting old growth forests as a critical repository of biodiversity. Canada has also blocked efforts in the indigenous and traditional knowledge provisions of Article 8(j) of the Convention. Despite a very powerful report from the World Commission for Forests and Sustainable Development, chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Ola Ullusten, calling for the end of all logging in old growth forests, there has been no official response from Canada.

Meanwhile, Canada is entering into some very questionable accounting methods under the emerging "flexibility mechanisms" in the Kyoto Protocol. The notion of measuring carbon sinks is a problematic exercise at best, but Canada's contribution to the exercise looks more like "smoke and mirrors" than "sinks."

Lastly, on a more positive note, Canada has maintained a very sound policy of not supporting any one type of forest certification scheme over another.


Conclusion

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Overall, there has been a steady erosion of the environment as an area of policy concern within the federal government. Hopeful glimmers on the horizon include talk of a "green" budget for the Millennium, and the possibility of reversing the haemorrhaging of resources from Environment Canada and scientific capacity in related departments.

Canada must stop dithering and act decisively to meet our Kyoto commitments. With the Issues Table process finally drawing to a close, the government can claim to have consulted the country to death. It's time for action.




PROVINCIAL GRADES

Newfoundland

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Biodiversity:

(not graded in 1993 or 1994)

1995 Grade: D-

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: D

1998 Grade: C-

1999 Grade: D

Newfoundland deserves credit for its progressive stand on endangered species legislation and limited progress on protected areas, but has lost ground due to the Fisheries Minister's calls for a massive seal cull.

The province received strong public support for its proposed endangered species legislation, but the bill is not yet tabled. Meanwhile progress was made toward the proposed Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador. The provincial government acted in December to bar any new mining claims inside the Torngats. Unfortunately, recent years have seen a surge in mineral licenses within the proposed park. At the time the government acted to prevent any new claims, 883 mineral claims had already been staked -- 487 in the last year! The province and federal government must continue progress toward the creation of Newfoundland and Labrador's newest park. Existing stakes must be cancelled and the park boundaries, including the ecologically significant Ramah area, must be legislated.

Other good news was the designation of the Redfir Lake-Kapitagas Channel in Western Labrador as an ecological reserve.

But the government's marks suffer for, once again, launching a spray programme with the organophosphate insecticide Dylox against the balsam sawfly. Dylox is not benign. It is extremely toxic substance and has been linked to birth defects, albeit at much higher levels of exposure than are likely to occur in Newfoundland. Aerial spraying over cottages in Newfoundland will likely have adverse effects on fish and wildlife.

In the coming year, the government must muzzle (or shuffle) Fisheries Minster John Efford and stop promoting a massive seal cull as a magic bullet that will enhance cod stocks. (Even the Newfoundland Sealers Association has asked that he tone down the rhetoric, as it hurts prices for seal pelts.)

Most observers are confident the Newfoundland government will follow through with endangered species legislation, but the government needs to intensify efforts to complete the roster of national parks on hold - both the Torngats and Mealy Mountains, both in Labrador.

Newfoundland - Climate Change:

1993 Grade:F

1994 Grade:F

1995 Grade:F

1996 Grade:D-

1997 Grade:D

1998 Grade:F

1999 Grade:F

No change over last year. Premier Tobin continues to hope that Kyoto will be the ticket to a wildly misconceived plan to harness power from the Lower Churchill and take it by underwater cable to the Island of Newfoundland.

On a less public note, Abitibi Consolidated of Corner Brook has been speculating in carbon futures. The as yet unregulated "free market" approach to greenhouse gas reductions has led to a carbon deal between Abitibi and Ontario Hydro. The "sale" is for carbon credits for Abitibi's Star Lake Hydro facility, which destroyed critical habitat of the endangered pine marten, as well as significant fish habitat. Never mind. Ontario Hydro was prepared to buy 840,000 tons over ten years, at an estimated $3/ton.


Nova Scotia


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Biodiversity:

not graded in 1993

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: B-

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: C-

1999 Grade: C-

The Nova Scotia Government shot to the head of the class with significant conservation achievements this year, but the grade remained unchanged because of backsliding. In December 1998, the provincial legislature managed to pass two key pieces of legislation: the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, increasing the protected areas of the province to 8% of the land base, and the province's first Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act, while not as strong on protection of habitat as many environmental groups had hoped, does get high marks for its approach to stewardship and partnerships. It comes closest to the Species at Risk Working Group, environmental and industry consensus of any current provincial legislation.

Meanwhile, the government has already has lost ground. Less than six months after the designation of the Bornish Hills protected area, an important area of old growth Acadian forest on Cape Breton Island within the Bras D'Or Lakes watershed, the Provincial Minister of Environment gave a permit for the development of a gypsum mine adjacent to the site. Local groups and the Sierra Club of Canada are urging Premier MacLellan to re-open this decision, and accommodate Georgia Pacific with a land swap for other gypsum mining, not adjacent to Bornish Hills.

Another controversy has flared up on the Sable Island -- the famed and storied isle 250 km off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is supposed to be protected from intrusive activities, as it is protected by the Migratory Birds Act and is recognised as highly significant ecologically. Recently, however, Mobil, Shell and Imperial Oil have requested the right to place an 18-person crew on Sable Island from June to October to explore for oil and gas. Increased drilling around Sable already has conservationists worried.

Another key decision point will be the issue of extending the moratorium against oil and gas drilling on the George's Bank. The current moratorium expires at the end of 1999. The United States has extended the moratorium on its side of the border. Fishery groups, local communities, and environmentalists all oppose lifting the moratorium. The George's Bank Public Review Panel is due to report in June.

Nova Scotia - Toxic Chemicals/ Pollution:

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: -

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: C

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: D   

With the very welcome news on May 28, 1999 that 24 homes will be purchased for residents of Frederick Street and Curry's Lane, the MacLellan government has avoided a failing mark. The announcement of a combined federal-provincial $62 million in support for the start of remediation and for activities of the Joint Action Group is a significant beginning. But the appalling failure to respond to Frederick Street residents in the last year and the ongoing denial that they have been exposed to health risks justifies a brief review. A student's final mark is more than what they are able to produce in the last week of classes.

Bureaucratic intransigence, phoney "science" and a complete lack of common sense have typified the government's handling of the crisis on Frederick Street. Once it was determined that toxic ooze was reaching the backyards of residents, common sense dictated that residents should be relocated. But, provincial officials, led by the dreadfully incompetent Provincial Health Officer, decided to spend $60,000 on a quick and dirty "health risk assessment." With contract in hand, CANTOX spent the money and two and a half weeks later produced the stunning conclusion that no long-term risk to residents existed from their proximity to poisons. Their computer model was premised on the assumption that the primary risk of exposure would be through eating the soil. On-going illness caused by bad air was discounted.

The Sierra Club of Canada commissioned an expert peer review of the CANTOX study by the International Institute of Concern for Public Health headed by world-renowned scientist, Dr. Rosalie Bertell. The conclusion of the peer review was that CANTOX has had inadequate data to justify their sweeping conclusion. Dr. Bertell and her colleague Roger Dixon, both of whom have decades of experience in public health and toxic waste site issues, have put their reputations behind the conclusion that the CANTOX report cannot be relied upon.

In response, the CANTOX spokesperson and Provincial Medical Officer, Dr. Jeff Scott, rejected the peer review and argued that sixteen scientists had prepared the CANTOX report. However, neither Scott nor CANTOX will reveal the names of the "scientists" who worked on the CANTOX study. In other words, no one with any credentials is willing to put their reputation forward as supporting the consultants' conclusions.

The CANTOX report came out in August 1998. By April 1999, residents had a new an alarming problem -- yellowy-orange ooze in their basements was found to contain arsenic. Claiming to be acting on humanitarian grounds, the government finally moved ten families into hotels and subsequently offered to buy 24 homes. But the "offer" has its own cruelty. Residents are being offered on a "take it or leave it" basis no more than $40,000 per home. Despite lower real estate values in Sydney than in other Canadian cities, a decent house cannot be found equivalent to what they had for less than $70-80,000. After a year of turmoil, residents have been told they must soon leave the hotel, but have nowhere to go. Worse yet is the fate of Ann Ross on Laurier Street who has been told that despite arsenic ooze in her basement, she must return home.

What the provincial and federal governments must do is accept that the area is too severely contaminated to allow residential use in a much broader area than just Curry Lane and Frederick Street. A buffer zone on all sides of the coke ovens site and along the estuary must be created, moving people into permanent housing, comparable in value to what they must leave behind. No one should live on a toxic waste site while governments struggle to figure out how to clean up the mess.

Nova Scotia - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: n/a

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: D+

1996 Grade: D-

1997 Grade:D+

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: D

Nova Scotia is now gearing up to reap the economic benefits of the Sable Island natural gas development. As its coal industry gasps its last, the province should be well placed to take a leadership role on climate change. Unfortunately, N.S. Power hasn't noticed the potential. Workers who have been treated contemptibly in the last years of coal mining deserve to see investments in a new kind of energy sector. While natural gas will be in demand as a transition fuel, the transition must be to renewables. Cape Breton should become a producer of renewable energy technologies.


Prince Edward Island


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Biodiversity:

not graded in 1993, 1994

1995 Grade: B-

1996 Grade: C

1997 Grade: C

1998 Grade: D

1999 Grade: C-

Prince Edward Island has failed to meet its protected areas promises and has opened an enormous controversy by planning a waste disposal facility and dump in a pristine area near Tracadie Cross.

Residents in Tracadie are still awaiting a final decision on the scale of the waste facility, which may be reduced in light of overwhelming public opposition. The proposed dump is in a water recharge area, near three watercourses, including the watershed of the Hillsborough River, recently declared a national Heritage River. Tracadie Cross is ideal for protected area designation, with old Acadian forest, beaver dam, streams with trout, and eagle nests. While the Waste Watch programme has admirable goals, reducing the waste stream and incorporating composting into the plans, it is still tied the large incinerator "waste to energy" project. Moreover, Tracadie Cross was an inexplicable choice given even the government's own criteria and weighting system.

On protected areas, in the last year, the government actually moved backward, withdrawing a critical 170 hectares from the Brudenell Provincial Park to allow a private developer to build a golf course! While an additional 300 hectares were added to he protected areas system, the province is a long way from meeting their commitments to protected areas protection.

However, marks improved because the province acted where others have failed and passed legislation to protect endangered species.

Prince Edward Island - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: n/a

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: C-

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: D

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: F

Although Prince Edward Island is a small contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As a low-lying island, much of its coastline will be lost to inundation if the rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon are not arrested.

The provincial government should be playing the kind of role within Canada that the Alliance of Low-Lying Island States plays globally in demanding serious action by the larger polluting regions. Still, PEI has taken steps to improve energy efficiency and encourage renewable energy. In addition to steps taken in previous year, expanding the district heating network in Charlottetown and recovering methane from three of the Island's largest food processing plants, it is currently planning to develop a small scale wind farm in western Prince Edward Island. When will we see solar panels on Green Gables?


New Brunswick


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Biodiversity:

1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: F

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: D

1999 Grade: D

There are several levels of disappointment when reviewing New Brunswick's record this year. Firstly, there was disappointment that the Protected Area Strategy for the province, identifying 12 candidate area, ignored the potential for protection of boreal forest in the Christmas Mountains region -- particularly Serpentine and Nalisk Mountains. Secondly, there was disappointment in the slow pace following the report's release. No new protected areas were created this year. Worse yet, the very modest and inadequate levels of protection that came forward in the protected areas strategy provoked an ugly backlash of protest in some communities. Now the government has created a further stall and a socio-economic study of the costs of protecting each of the candidate sites.

Most damning of all is that the candidate areas are without even interim protection while the process creeps forward. Logging is continuing in areas that are slated for protection, and even new roads are being built to expand logging on candidate sites.

New regulations by way of requirements in the 5-year management plan have been put forward for forest practices, with excellent objectives for protection of bio-diversity, are being kept under wraps without public access. They are deserving of public support but risk being scrapped before New Brunswickers learn about them. Any changes in forest practices between now and 2007 will be decided in the next 4 months.

The coastal lands policy is excellent but has been shelved due to pressure from developers. Dust has been gathering on this progressive policy for two years.

Watching the New Brunswick government cave in to developer pressures is agonising for conservationists in a province with nearly no wilderness left.

The one bright spot, which has helped New Brunswick avoid a failing grade, is the experimental opening of dams on the Peticodiac River.

New Brunswick - Climate Change:


1993 Grade: n/a

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: D+

1997 Grade: C-

1998 Grade: D

1999 Grade: F

The province has left climate change off any and all agenda. The environment department is silent. The energy branch of Natural Resources is well motivated, but tiny (less than a dozen souls dealing with the arrival of natural gas, restructuring of the electricity sector, and climate change.) The issue remained invisible throughout the election campaign. Perhaps newly elected Premier Lord will consider making a change on this file.


Quebec


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Biodiversity:

1993 (not graded)

1994 Grade: D

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: C+

1997 Grade: D-

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: F

This may go down in history as the year that forest issues and clearcutting became a source of concern to an alarmed public. The catalyst for these concerns was the release of the documentary "L'horreur boreal."

Over-cutting and poor forest practices in Quebec are nothing new -- after all the province is still part of Canada and has bought in to the high-exploitation industrial model of forestry pursued across the country. Rates of logging have increased substantially in recent years, particularly into the northern boreal forest, home of the Cree. The Grand Council of the Cree estimates that, since 1975, over 5,000 square kilometres of their lands have been clear-cut. Huge volumes of primarily softwood for sawmills and pulp mills are logged annually. In 1995, more than five million cubic metres of wood were logged out of the Cree lands.

Quebec's largest and most respected conservation organisation, l'Union quebecoise pour la conservation de la nature (UQCN) has issued a call for a moratorium on all logging north of the 50th parallel, until a proper scientific assessment can be made on the functioning of the boreal ecosystem and its ability to recover following massive clear-cutting.

It is also essential that Quebec begin to set aside representative forest ecosystems as protected areas. With only 3.7 percent of Quebec's land base having any protected status, the amount that represents forested ecosystems is far lower.

Quebec has made no progress in establishing protected areas in the last year, although the government did commit $35 million over a three-year period to upgrade existing parks and to establish four new parks. Although the money is there, the parks aren't. A number of important candidate sites have been identified. Given the enormous land mass of Quebec, these proposed parks cover such disparate ecosystems as Anticosti Island, off the north-east coast reaching toward Labrador, to the Plaisance park proposal hugging the U.S. border.

The province has a mixed record on endangered species. Although it has had legislation, brought in when current Liberal MP Clifford Lincoln was environment minister, this year it removed habitat protection from the bill. Its legislation automatically lists the species habitat when the species is listed. But this year, when the copper redhorse, an endangered species of fish, was listed, its habitat was immediately de-listed. This appears to have been due to Hydro Quebec's dam plans for Chambly. Living up to the legislation would have caused problems for the utility, so the habitat was sacrificed instead.

The rapid rate of logging and snail's pace rate of protection translates to extensive threats to biodiversity in Quebec.

Quebec - Climate Change:

1993 Grade:N/A

1994 Grade:D

1995 Grade:C+

1996 Grade: D+

1997 Grade:D-

1998 Grade:C

1999 Grade:C+

This year, Quebec led the country in the development of renewables with the start-up of the 100-megawatt le Nordais Wind Farm. The Gaspe region facility produces enough electricity for approximately 10,000 average households from its 76 turbines atop Cap Chat. It is currently the largest wind farm in Canada.

The Minister of Environment, Mr. Paul Begin appears to have a good grasp of the issue, but lacks support from his cabinet. The Minister appears frustrated with the snail's pace set by the Issues Tables Process, and the province is planning its own action plan on climate change.


Ontario


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Biodiversity:

not graded in 1993, 1994

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: D-

What do you do about a student, the schoolyard bully, who spends all term pulling the wings off butterflies and yanking the girls' hair, who in the last week of school brings flowers to the teacher? How do you grade a kid who fails all exams, and is caught cheating on several, who squeaks by on the final?

A bare passing mark is required, with a warning to next year's homeroom teacher to watch him very carefully.

The reality is that Mike Harris has a terrible environmental record. As Premier he has dismantled much of the regulatory system, cut budgets and staff, and turned the province over to corporations. He also did two very good things -- stopped the spring bear hunt and created 378 new parks and protected areas on 2.4 million hectares of Crown land. No question the "protection" is all it should be. Mining companies will likely still have access to protected areas if they were deemed of "high mineral potential." Sports hunting will probably also be permitted in new protected areas.

The biodiversity concern is not primarily with the weaknesses in the level of protection, but rather with the intensity of resource extraction on the 88% of the land base outside parks in central and northern Ontario. The Ontario Forest Accord has guaranteed to forest companies that the new protected areas will not affect the wood supply. The promise of "no net loss of wood fibre" is completely untenable given that the province was already cutting at unsustainable rates. Virtually all logging in Ontario's forests is by clearcutting (93% of commercial logging in 1994). The Harris government has been turning over the resource sectors to industry "self-regulation." Even at the previous level of staffing and enforcement, violations of logging guidelines were rampant. In the past, many documented cases of non-compliance and non-enforcement have been cited, but dismissed by governments as unfortunate exceptions to the general rule. Harris is now leaving the forest companies to exploit more wood from less land, and to regulate themselves. Thus the flip side of "Lands for Life" if "Lands for Logging." The combination of a commitment to "no net loss of wood fibre" and to industry self-regulation is a recipe for ecological damage on a massive scale. The only bulwark against destruction of critical habitat for endangered species and devastation of watercourses will be the self-discipline of individual forest companies. Some are good corporate citizens. But others are not.

Ontario - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: D

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: F

Ontario has seen air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions significantly increase due to its increased reliance on coal-fired electrical generating stations. The poor performance of Ontario's nuclear stations and an abysmal failure to capitalise on co-generation, district energy and other energy efficiency opportunities has resulted in deteriorating air quality and increased carbon dioxide emissions. According to the Ontario Medical Association, 1,800 Ontarians die every year, and die before their time, due to air pollution. Reducing burning coal fights climate change and air pollution, but the solution is not nuclear.

The decision to re-start Pickering A and Bruce A reactors is simply a large and expensive mistake. Restarting Pickering A will cost $1 billion or more. $5 billion will be spent in the next four years, and an astounding $21 billion through to 2009. This is on top of the "stranded" nuclear debt and liabilities of $38 billion!

The unreliability of nuclear energy and the need for "peaking" power means that, even once billions have been misdirected, the province will still be relying on coal.

The restructuring of Ontario Hydro offered some economically viable opportunities to level the playing field for efficiency and renewables, but the opportunities have been ignored in favour of coal and nukes.

The OPG and the government-appointed advisory body (The Market Design Committee) have failed to support basic environmental measures such as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (a quota for renewable energy) and funding for conservation (the systems benefits charge).

The province's only measure to reduce air pollution and climate change is the long-awaited "Drive Clean" programme. This mandatory emissions-testing programme is aimed at identifying the 10-20% of vehicles that are poorly maintained. The programme is also to apply to heavy trucks. A car that is properly tuned will cause fewer emissions as well as less greenhouse gases due to improved fuel economy.

But the whole direction of the Harris government's transportation policy has been against public mass transit (which has suffered serious cuts), in favour of urban sprawl and more highways. So while some of the worst cars on the road may face inspection, there will be an increasing number of them -- as alternatives are squeezed for lack of resources and more highways inevitably become clogged with more cars. As transportation accounts for 30% of Canada's Greenhouse gas emissions, actions must be taken to improve access to efficient and convenient mass transit.

The Ontario government has done absolutely nothing this year that could elevate the grade above an "F."


Manitoba


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Biodiversity:

1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: F

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: C+

1998 Grade: D

1999 Grade: D+

The Manitoba government has improved its mark for the protection of biodiversity, primarily due to progress on protected areas. But meanwhile, logging continues at an unsustainable rate -- and is slated to increase yet again with no public review of the allocation and no land-use planning in place!

Although no new parks were established this year, significant areas received interim protection (900,000 hectares combined within both Chitek Lake and Poplar River/Nanowin River park reserves). This was made possible by requests from the Manitoba First Nations for the areas to be protected within the 1998 Manitoba/First Nations Memorandum of Understanding. Chitek Lake is an ecologically significant area in western Manitoba with free-ranging wood bison, woodland caribou, elk, moose and white-tailed deer. Its long-term protection is a significant goal.

The Lowlands National Park has once again been stalled as negotiations with logging, mining and First Nations have proved quite difficult, but hopes are high the difficult process will prove fruitful.

The Parks Branch has also identified a number of areas of interest in northern Manitoba.

Other good news includes additional wildlife management areas and protection of the Douglas Marsh within the Department of National Defence property at Shilo.

The lack of baseline information on wildlife, both terrestrial and aquatic, the lack of confidence in even the forest resources inventory, the pitiful amount of money for monitoring and research undermine any efforts to protect biodiversity. The announcement of a further 10% reduction in staffing levels means that there will be even less monitoring and enforcement by either Manitoba Natural Resources or Department of Environment. These cuts come after a series of budget reductions and "Filman Fridays" and ever-extending needs for monitoring, enforcement and basic research.

Manitoba's record on endangered species is also spotty. Although the province has endangered species legislation, it has never laid a charge under the Act and has done little to increase public awareness of the species at risk and the implications of the law. The province added seven species to its endangered species list bringing the provincially protected total to twenty-three. But many species listed by COSEWIC within Manitoba have not received provincial listing. Despite recommendations from the provincial ministerial advisory committee to list these species, Lake sturgeon, woodland caribou and white pine have not been listed. The woodland caribou is an old-growth dependent species. Protecting this species might lead to conflict with the powerful forest lobby.

The forest industry is planning to significantly expand operations, with Tembec, new owner of the former Pine Falls mill, having announced its intention to more than double logging. The province still does not perform environmental assessments of logging on Crown land, apart from the three forest management areas.

Manitoba - Climate Change:

1993 Grade:n/a

1994 Grade:F

1995 Grade:D+

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade:F

1998 Grade:F

1999 Grade:F

Unfortunately, there is no reason to change this grade. Manitoba, like many provinces, is sitting back waiting for the national process to unfold.

The one bright spot was a modest three year green commuting programme.


Saskatchewan


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Biodiversity:

1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: C+

1999 Grade: F  

Roy Romanow seems to have decided that Ralph Klein is his role model on environmental issues. Saskatchewan has just entered into the kind of no holds barred exploitation of its northern forests that Alberta did ten years ago. Saskatchewan will double logging rates, new mills are being promised, along with an inflated prediction of job increases. Doubling of the annual allowable cut across the board is extremely unwise. The provincial inventory is woefully inadequate to support such a drastic increase, as the following excerpt from At the Cutting Edge explains:

"Saskatchewan's 1993 State of the Resource Report provides a surprisingly candid and blunt appraisal of the inventory and its limitations. The inventory was criticised for relying on 'out-of-date' information, for relying on low quality aerial photography caused by reliance on 'short annual contracts, based on selection criteria stressing the lowest bids', widely varying standards of accuracy and detail from one part of the forest to another, weaknesses in the stand classification system, as well as having areas where 'inventory coverage is lacking'. All in all, the inventory was summarised as having 'some weak areas, inefficiencies, and limitations and is facing the consequences of some serious deficiencies brought about by recent cutbacks. The shortcomings will become more critical if the forest resource management is expanded.'1"

It is particularly troubling that the increased logging will open up areas in northern Saskatchewan, where regrowth is slow due to both climatic and soil conditions. Extensive clearcuts in the province's northern boreal occurring as climate change exerts enormous stresses on forest ecosystems, could well lead to enormous areas where the forest simply will not be able to recover. Climate change estimates for Saskatchewan already suggest that the impacts of an atmospheric doubling of carbon include the elimination of forest land.

Some progress was made this year, however, in protecting natural areas. The province's Representative Areas Network was expanded by 327,144 hectares, the largest addition being the Seager Wheeler Lake area (178,000 hectares). However, the endangered species file remains a black mark with no provincial legislation and no plans develop any. It is no wonder so many frustrated Saskatchewan New Democrats are organising a strong Green Party campaign.

Saskatchewan - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: D-

1996 Grade: F

1997 Grade: D-

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: F

Saskatchewan's emissions are now 34% higher than they were in 1990. The response is in true Canadian fashion -- another advisory committee! However, the committee has not moved to develop a strategy because they are waiting for the federal government to take the lead.

1. Delcan Western Ltd. et al., State of the Resource Report, Province of Saskatchewan Integrated Forest Resources Management Plan (Prince Albert, April 1993), section 4.1.6



Alberta


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Biodiversity:

1993 Grade: B

1994 Grade: B

1995 Grade: F

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: F-

1999 Grade: D-

Alberta improved its grade this year with the creation of five new protected areas, for a total of 139,100 hectares. Its most significant decision, announced on May 11th, was to protect the Whaleback, one of Alberta's most significant threatened areas. Last year, Amoco Canada Petroleum Ltd. voluntarily offered to relinquish its leases on the Whaleback -- without compensation. The government appeared uninterested in the offer and the environmental community was left to muse that the industry was more environmentally sensitive than the government. But finally, light, and the Whaleback, dawned. The Whaleback, the largest, intact motane landscape in Canada, is home to 2,000 elk, grizzly bears and more than 80 species of songbirds.

More good news came a week later, on May 18th, with a "no new development" announcement for Kanasnaskis Country. "K-Country," as it is known locally, comprises 4,200 square kilometres of wilderness, one hour west of Calgary. Intense development pressures led to a four-year battle over the fate of the popular recreational destination. While there are still some "grandfathered" projects, Klein's announcement is positive and welcome.

Unfortunately, with the introduction of the Natural Heritage Act, Alberta could entrench pro-development elements in its protected areas laws. Its proposed legislation would still allow industrial developments in protected areas. Premier Klein has distanced himself from the bill, reflecting the strong public reaction to its defects. The government has delayed its passage, with Klein describing it as "off the table" due to "mechanical problems" in the drafting. But it has not been withdrawn, merely delayed. Substantial redrafting will be required to make the bill acceptable.

Special Places 2000 regained some of it lost credibility with the designation of the Whaleback. However, much more progress must be seen before the environmental community will regard SP2000 as more than a sham. Existing protected areas continue to be compromised by industrial activity. This year portions of the Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation area have been set aside for a planned utility corridor.

Meanwhile, Alberta and British Columbia retain their role as "bad boys" in endangered species negotiations. Both provinces are adamant in their refusal to proceed with provincial legislation to protect species at risk -- providing a strong rationale for federal legislation that works across the country.

One sign of hope was the recent Cabinet shuffle. The splitting of the forestry and environment department is a sensible move. Reports on new environment minister Gary Mar suggest he may be progressive in his approach. After Ty Lund, Mar only has to be mediocre to appear positively brilliant.

Alberta - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: n/a

1994 Grade: D

1995 Grade: F

1996 Grade: F-

1997 Grade: F

1998 Grade: F-

1999 Grade: D-

Although Alberta has not instituted any measures to deal with the threat of climate change, it merits a passing mark for capping "rhetoric emissions." The Klein government has finally accepted the science and admitted that human-caused climate change is a real problem. Alberta now advocates prudent, precautionary action. Its role as co-chair of the mammoth "Issues Table National Process" may in years to come be seen as a crucial turning point in Canada's national progress toward environmentally sound energy policy.

However, the province has still made no progress toward Kyoto, and in inconsistent ways, still appears to balk at meeting Kyoto targets!


British Columbia


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Biodiversity:

not graded in 1993

1994 Grade: C-

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: B-

1997 Grade: D-

1998 Grade: D-

1999 Grade: D-

British Columbia has slid the furthest from its once acknowledged position as Canada's environmental leader. In the last year, the government proceeded with changes to water down the Forest Practices Code, has flirted with privatisation of Crown forests, including most recently its plan to provide compensation to MacMillan Bloedel through a gift of public land, and has routinely ignored the need to protect endangered species.

The proposed compensation for parks with MacMillan Bloedel includes the option of giving them 30,000 hectares of Crown land and a further 90,000 hectares on which the Forest Practices Code would be relaxed.

This came on the heels of Deputy Premier Dan Miller's suggestion that it was time to consider privatisation of British Columbia's forest land. Miller went on to describe Crown land leases, with variations the same tenure system used across Canada, as "Soviet-style."

Meanwhile, despite the creation of Spotted Owl Conservation Areas, the province is either logging or planning to log in nearly every one of them. Logging of habitat for other species at risk, including marbled murrelet and Queen Charlotte Island goshawk is being allowed by the Clark government. Interfor is proposing to put a road into Manning Park, right into spotted owl habitat. That this proposal is even being entertained suggests the plummeting consciousness for biodiversity in the BC government.

As we noted in last year's report card, the gutting of the Forest Practices Code set the stage for erosion of biodiversity. These changes were forecast by the province's own watchdog, chair of the Forest Practices Board, Keith Moore, when he said, "These changes will likely lead to a reduction in environmental standards." Where the Forest Practices Code requires that biodiversity is "adequately" conserved and protected, a recently released government memo instructs staff to interpret "adequate" as "barely sufficient".

BC is also considering lifting the moratorium on offshore oil and gas and has commissioned a consultant to conduct a two-month feasibility study. But the waters off British Columbia could not be a more inappropriate place to even explore for oil. A combination of rich ocean life and a fierce and unpredictable climate, make exploration, development and tanker traffic very risky business.

What are at risk are the waters off Haida Gwaii, otherwise known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, a candidate National Marine Park. Grey whales are found in these waters, as are minke and orcas, a rich salmon fishery, seals, otters and sea lions and an array of sea birds. The United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union oppose lifting the moratorium for fear that the troubled fishery could be devastated by a fledgling oil and gas industry. So too so many First Nations oppose the lifting of the moratorium. In fact, the issue is considered too controversial by the Commissioner of the BC Northern Development Commission to allow public meetings. The two-month feasibility study will be conducted through private interviews.

As noted in Alberta's grade, the BC and Alberta government has represented the greatest opposition to effective federal endangered species legislation. British Columbia is refusing to bring forward provincial legislation either, arguing that the Forest Practices Code will protect species. Based on the measures under the Code for spotted owl protection, the Code is clearly not adequate to protect even forest species. But even Glen Clark cannot claim that the Forest Practices Code is capable of protecting species at risk in non-forest ecosystems, such as wetlands and Canada's only true desert south eastern British Columbia. The only reason that BC did not fail this year on biodiversity was due to two significant achievements: The agreement to move towards Global Biosphere Reserve status for Clayoquot Sound and due to logging moratoria on the Central Coast. Sierra Club's British Columbia chapter was heavily involved in government supported negotiations with Western Forest Products and Interfor, which resulted in logging moratoria on all 40 critical intact valleys along the Central Coast.

BC's grade can significantly improve with the pending legislative package to move protected area designations into Class A parks designation under the Parks Act.

British Columbia - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: n/a

1994 Grade: C-

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: D+

1997 Grade: C-

1998 Grade: F

1999 Grade: D-

The British Columbia government has no co-ordinated policy to respond to Kyoto. Its ad hoc decision-making has led to skyrocketing greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. Between 1970 and 1995, total ghg emissions increased 77 per cent. Much of that increase has been caused by the blight of urban sprawl in the Lower Mainland. In that same period the distance travelled by BC residents doubled. As in the rest of Canada, more than half the new cars sold are the least efficient types of vehicles -- gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles and light trucks. The government has not yet ruled out a proposed coal-fired power plant put forward by Fording Coal, and, as noted in the biodiversity grade, is considering lifting the moratorium on exploration, drilling and transportation of offshore oil and gas. The province is still planning gas plants to meet increased demand and offers cheap energy to attract large capital and energy intensive industries, such as aluminium smelters to the province.

The provincial government meanwhile, accepts both the science of climate change and the reality of what it may mean for British Columbians. A report released in 1998, "Environmental Trends in British Columbia," outlined the following predicted impacts:

"Increased rainfall on the coast and increased drought in the interior; altered stream flows; declining fish stocks in the southern part of the province; and increased frequency of forest fires and pest infestations."

Yet in the same province with so much to lose through climate change and energy policies that only worsen the problem, some of the world's most promising alternative technologies are struggling to make it in the marketplace. Ballard Power Systems has emerged as a leader in fuel cell technology. While hydrogen powered vehicles are "pollution-free" in operation on city streets, upstream there are important questions about the ghg involved in producing the hydrogen to run the fuel cells. All the same, BC Transit deserves credit for getting three city buses, powered by Ballard fuel cells into operation in Vancouver.

The province needs to follow through on the suggestion in the 1999 provincial budget that it will start work toward ecological tax reform. BC needs to encourage "green industries," including a building retrofit programme, support to alternative fuels and small scale renewables.


Northwest Territories


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Biodiversity:

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: C-

1998 Grade: C

1999 Grade: C

Although no new protected areas were created this year, we are holding the NWT government's grade at the same level, in recognition of the completion of the long-awaited protected areas strategy. The strategy applies only to the western portion of the North West Territories, excluding the new territory of Nunavut. The NWT are now committed, with Cupertino of government, First Nations, industry and environmental groups, to protect core representative areas within each eco-region, as well as protecting areas of natural and cultural significance.

Other good news this year was the passage by the federal Parliament of the final boundaries for the Tuktut Nogait National Park, rejecting efforts by mining interests to exclude significant and sensitive calving lands essential for the Bluenose caribou herd.

Northwest Territories - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: n/a

1994 Grade: n/a

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: C-

1997 Grade: C-

1998 Grade: C

1999 Grade: C-

The government is launching its own process to develop a greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Although emissions are low compared to other jurisdictions, development has brought significant increases (16% increase in emissions from the BHP diamond mine alone, against 1990 levels. Another planned diamond mine will raise emissions again by 12%).

But of all jurisdictions in Canada, the Arctic territories have the most to lose. Climate change affects them the most drastically, with melting permafrost, thinner ice, threatening polar bears, and bringing the introduction of exotic species. The north is warming at three times the global rate.

The cruel irony is that the peoples of Canada's north suffer from the excesses of an industrial society that brought them little benefit -- contamination by persistent organic pollutants (POPs) affecting mother's milk, the thinning ozone layer causing increased sunburn in Inuit hunters, and the destabilisation of the planet's climate.

The North West Territories, the Yukon and Nunavut have a pivotal role, as do low-lying island states, in securing action on climate change.


Yukon


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Biodiversity:

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: C

1998 Grade: C+

1999 Grade: C-

The government of the Yukon deserves credit for completion of its protected areas strategy -- one of the most forward looking in Canada. The Yukon protected areas strategy incorporates a wide range of tools to conserve biodiversity.

But on the ground, the Yukon government is entertaining proposals that run counter to the new strategy. Oil and gas applications are proceeding over vast areas of Yukon's north, without proper planning or consultation. The Peel River Plateau and Eagle Plains area are being opened up to the oil industry with little public consultation. Activities in these areas could affect the long-term health of the porcupine caribou herd, as well as the First Nations people who depend upon them. It flies in the face of the protected area strategy, as well as recommendations from the Peel River Advisory Board, created under terms of a land claims agreement, that several protected areas should be established in the Peel River Watershed.

In the southern Yukon, development pressures also threaten biodiversity. Logging is heating up in the southern part of the Yukon to meet demands of a proposed new mill.

But opportunities to protect biodiversity are not hard to find. Although no new areas were created this year, Parks Canada has identified a wonderful candidate for National Parks status in the southern part of the Yukon. The proposed Wolf Lake (Gooch A) National Park would be a significant conservation achievement. But the Tombstone Territorial Park to the north is already being eroded through antiquated mining laws, coupled with pressure from a mining company to drill and excavate in the heart of the park.

Yukon - Climate Change:

1993 Grade: N/A

1994 Grade: N/A

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: D

1997 Grade: C

1998 Grade: C

1999 Grade: C-

The Yukon government has made some efforts to respond to the threat of climate change, but progress is undermined by pro-oil and gas decisions.

The progressive steps include concerted public awareness campaigns, development of a Yukon Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Green mortgages for home buyers of energy efficient homes (something we would love to see across Canada), and a set of energy efficiency recommendations form the Yukon Cabinet Commission on Energy.

Ironically, the rate of warming has led to enterprise of another kind in the Yukon as archaeological remains, buried for the last 4,000 years have emerged from the melting snow and ice north of Whitehorse. Local research into the find has been taking place under the International Tundra Experiment.


NOTES

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The "Rio Report Card" is a part of the Rio Watch Project of the Sierra Club of Canada. In June 1992, Sierra Club of Canada (SCC) committed to the assessment of government performance to meet targets set at the United Nations Convention on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro.

The views and opinions expressed in the report card are those of the Sierra Club of Canada. Any errors and omissions are also the responsibility of SCC.

SCC receives advice and research assistance from many groups and individuals across Canada. This year we wish to thank:

Sierra Club chapter offices and staff in Toronto, Edmonton and Victoria; SCC volunteers in Halifax, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout, Durham Nuclear Awareness Project, International Fund for Animal Welfare, World Wildlife Fund, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Greenpeace, Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the Halifax Initiative, Forest Allies (Newfoundland), Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre (Halifax), Margaree Environmental Coalition (Cape Breton), Union quebecoise pour la conservation de la nature, Tracadie Area Residents for Resource Protection (TARRP- PEI), Environmental Coalition of PEI, Wildlands League, Earthroots, Sierra Legal Defence Fund, Alberta Wilderness Association, Future Forest Alliance, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, The David Suzuki Foundation, Saskatchewan Environmental Society, West Coast Environmental Law, Joys Dancer, Alice Chambers, Ocean Voice International, Greg Mitchell, and Don McAllister.

The "Rio Report Card" was researched, written and produced by the SCC National Office Staff. The 1999 Rio Report Card team included Elizabeth May, Angela Rickman, Rita Morbia, John Bennett, Paul Gregory, and Andrew MacDonald.


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1999, Sierra Club of Canada