Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

20 Feb 2016

Failing to consider the environment

Posted by Michael Keating

Canada’s federal environmental watchdog says a number of federal departments do not properly consider the environment in decision making, nor show a commitment to Canada’s Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. In her latest report, Julie Gelfand, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, had strong criticism of a number of departments. She said the federal cabinet has ordered departments and agencies to do strategic environmental assessment so ministers and the public know the potential impacts. Departments are not doing an adequate job.

Julie Gelfand

Julie Gelfand

Gelfand reported on Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian Heritage, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada performance in 2015. “Overall, we found that none of the entities met the requirements for public reporting on the extent and results of their strategic environmental assessment practices, as set out in the Cabinet directive and its related guidelines. For example, their reporting did not describe how their policy, plan, and program proposals that were subject to a strategic environmental assessment had affected, or were expected to have affected, progress toward Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) goals and targets, as required.”

The result is that “…ministers were not always getting information on the potential important positive or negative environmental effects of the proposals submitted to them.” She also said that public reporting helps to demonstrate to stakeholders and the public that departments and agencies do consider the environmental effects of proposals and that the environmental decision-making process is open and accountable.

The commissioner’s office was created in 1995 to provide objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development, to monitor departmental; sustainable development strategies of federal departments, and to audit the federal government’s management of environmental and sustainable development issues.

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