“The clock could well be running out” Elizabeth May urges government to heed new report from Environment Commissioner

October 03, 2018
OTTAWA – The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, tabled three reports today in Parliament – on toxic substances, protecting marine mammals and departmental progress in implementing sustainable development strategies. The audits reveal troubling gaps between the federal government’s objectives and their action plans on environmental protection and recovery of species at risk.

“The Canadian Environmental Protection Act promised ‘cradle to grave’ regulation of toxic substances,” said Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “The Commissioner’s report today makes clear that the government is falling well short of that mark. Canadians should be secure in the knowledge that their government conducts comprehensive, evidence-based screenings of hazardous substances that could impact their health and the health of their environments. Significant steps must be taken, jointly, by Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada to achieve this standard, including better public communication so that Canadians can make more informed choices.”

“The government has chosen to target dry cleaners for the use of a single toxic chemical, tetrachloroethylene. While dangerous, the chemical is certainly not the main toxic substance of concern – there are many more that require attention, such as the 26 regulated substances that have gone un-inspected. The focus on small businesses rather than on industrial sites suggests, as the Commissioner reports, that enforcement activities are being prioritized based on the business’ potential for non-compliance; it is crucial to shift priorities so that they are based on risk assessments instead.”

“‘Reactive, limited, and late’ – with these three words Commissioner Gelfand condemns the government’s efforts at protecting marine mammals. Recovery strategies are chronically delayed by several years and not one action plan has met its deadlines. The Southern Resident Killer Whale has been listed as endangered for 15 years – only 75 exist today. The Commissioner is not exaggerating when she says that time is running out for some species. We have to act fast and with purpose; these species are of vital importance to the cultural and economic fabric of many coastal communities, including in my riding on the Salish Sea.”

“As the Trans Mountain pipeline heads into another National Energy Board review, it is imperative that the government examine the threat of marine vessels to endangered species like the Southern Resident Killer Whale. The Federal Court of Appeal decision underscored that, without such a consideration, the environmental impact assessment would remain fundamentally flawed. I urge the government to heed the Commissioner’s recommendation for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada to collaborate on measures to protect species from the impact of marine vessels – and that means cancelling the expansion of an expensive, unnecessary and all-too risky pipeline.”

“The Green Party of Canada maintains that there is a fundamental right to a healthy environment, and that preserving the country’s rich heritage of wildlife is of vital importance. Risks, whether to human health or to an endangered species, must be taken seriously. The government’s objectives are not in question, but the measures it takes to achieve them must be adequately resourced and thoroughly implemented with close collaboration between ministries.”