Congratulations to both the federal and provincial environmental
commissioners, who continue to strenuously remind our governments
how far they fall short on environmental stewardship, and who both
issued powerful reports this week. Bees, Algonquin Park,
"Chemical Alley", urban sprawl, climate change, weak
environmental assessment, inadequate commitment
to environmental monitoring in the oil sands: there is no
shortage of environmental crises that require urgent
Ontario: Bees and Neonicotinoids
Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord
Miller says the Ontario government "needs to
take swift action and commit dedicated resources in order to avert
a potential ecological and economic crisis" from the
precipitous decline of pollinators such as bees. "There is now
abundant evidence linking bee kills to neonicotinoid
contaminated dust generated during the planting of seed-treated
crops... If [federal] measures prove to be insufficient,
restrictions on seed treatment with neonicotinoids should be
considered by the Ontario government for the 2015 planting
season... The steps taken today to protect pollinators will
determine the state of our biodiversity and food security for years
Cutting down Algonquin Park
Commissioner Miller calls on the province to stop logging
Algonquin Park, Ontario's only provincial park where logging is
permitted. As the Commissioner puts it, "I am deeply disturbed
that Ontario's flagship Park continues to receive the lowest
level of protection of any of the province's protected
areas." We agree. The ecological integrity of the park has
long been sacrificed to maintain jobs in the surrounding area; the
continuing destruction of old growth forests in Algonquin Park is a
Commissioner Miller also chides the Ontario provincial
government for failing to get urban sprawl under control in the
Greater Toronto Area, and for doing so little to protect air
quality in a heavily polluted first nation reserve close to
Sarnia's "chemical alley".
Federal: weak assessment and monitoring
Meanwhile, Federal Commissioner of the Environment and of
Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, has issued
her first report. She describes substantial
weaknesses in the federal government's implementation of its
own Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012) and progress, but
inadequate federal commitment, on environmental monitoring and
regulation in the oil sands.
The report also highlights significant safety concerns regarding
marine navigation in the Canadian Arctic, noting that the Arctic
coastline remains inadequately mapped, and that the government is
short of icebreakers, with the two most effective ships to be
decommissioned by 2022.
Unsurprisingly, the federal Commissioner also reports that
the Canadian government has made unsatisfactory progress in each of
four benchmark areas for mitigating climate change, and that
Canada's Copenhagen Accord target of a 17-percent reduction in
emissions below 2005 levels by 2020 will almost certainly be
Overall, we found that federal departments have made
unsatisfactory progress in each of the four areas
examined. Despite some advances since our 2012 audit,
timelines for putting measures in place to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions have not been met and departments are not yet able to
assess whether measures in place are reducing emissions as
expected. We also found that Environment Canada lacks an approach
for coordinating actions with the provinces and territories to
achieve the national target, and an effective planning process for
how the federal government will contribute to achieving the
Copenhagen target. In 2012, we concluded that the federal
regulatory approach was unlikely to lead to emission reductions
sufficient to meet the 2020 Copenhagen target. Two years later, the
evidence is stronger that the growth in emissions will not be
reversed in time and that the target will be missed.
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Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
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