From: David Ljunggren, Reuters
Published September 30, 2005 12:00 AM

Official Report Slams Canada Over Environment

OTTAWA — Canadians are being forced to drink unsafe water, fish stocks are endangered and national parks are under threat because Ottawa is doing a very poor job of protecting the environment, according to an official report issued Thursday.

The stinging document by Johanne Gelinas, Canada's environment commissioner, makes grim reading for a Liberal government already under fire for what critics say is its patchy environmental record.

Gelinas said government initiatives on ensuring sustainable development were regularly undermined by bad management.

"A recurring theme throughout this year's report is that the federal government suffers from a chronic inability to see its own initiatives to completion. It starts out but rarely, if ever, reaches the finish line," she wrote.

"This is not good news, given the mounting evidence that we are on an unsustainable path."


Gelinas blamed government mismanagement for serious problems with water quality, especially among aboriginals living on reserves where living conditions are poor.

"Not all Canadians can assume that their drinking water in always safe. The government is not working hard enough to protect Canadians from unsafe drinking water," she said.

Budget cuts meant that health inspectors were no longer examining water on board airliners, which posed a potential risk to millions of passengers, she added.

The report is bad publicity for Ottawa as its prepares to host an international meeting in November on how to draw up a successor to the Kyoto accord on climate change.

The existing agreement obliges Canada to cut the output of greenhouse gases by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012 but Canada's overall emissions in 2003 were in fact 24 percent above 1990 levels.

Rick Smith, director of the Environmental Defence group, said that in the course of a decade Canada had become an international environmental delinquent.

"Canada is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to environmental performance among industrialized nations," he told Reuters.

"The federal government is completely out of step with where Canadians are at on the environment... Canadians have let (Ottawa) get away with talk as opposed to action."

Environment Minister Stephane Dion is due to comment on the report later Thursday.

Gelinas was particularly critical of Ottawa's long-standing failure to follow its own plans to set up marine areas to protect shrinking fish stocks.

She also said inadequate planning for an increased number of visitors meant "the health of Canada's national parks is in danger", while the federal government -- which spent C$13 billion ($11 billion) on goods and services in 2003 -- should insist suppliers were committed to sustainable development.

"It is astounding that the government has been promising a policy to direct departments to green their procurement for over a decade -- and the policy is still not ready," she said.

Source: Reuters

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