Select Committee on Environmental Audit First Report



May 2000


Monday 8 May

(A) Meetings with Mr Richard Smith, Acting Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD), and his staff at the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), Ottawa.


      - The CESD and Mr Ron Bergen: greening the Canadian government.

      - Mr Andrew Ferguson & Janet Jones: departmental sustainable development strategies.

      - Mr Michael McLaughlin, Deputy Director, OAG: the Fourth 'E' —sustainable development throughout the OAG.

      - Mr John Reed: Managing Toxic Substances (implementing a topic audit).

(B) Meeting and discussion with three members of the CESD's panel of external advisers on sustainable development: Ms Beatrice Olivastri (Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth Canada), Mr Claude-Andre Lachance (Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Dow Chemical Canada Inc.), and Glen Toner (Professor, Carleton University).

(C) Meeting and discussion with Mr David McGinty, Chief Executive, National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) (the first sustainable development round table).

(D) Meeting with British High Commissioner and Commission staff.

(E) Dinner hosted by the British High Commissioner with a range of guests from parliament, government, business & industry, non-governmental organisations and academia.

Tuesday 9th July

(F) Meeting with Assistant Deputy Minister, Mr Rick Cameron, National Resources Canada (NRCan) and staff


      - Mr Rick Cameron: overview

      - Mr Mark Pearson: the sustainable development strategy

      - Mr Keijo Littela, Internal Audit and Evaluation Branch

(G) Hon. David Anderson MP, Minister for the Environment

(H) Visit to Canadian House of Commons, Question Time.[141]

(I) Debate with Canadian House of Commons Environment and Sustainable Development Committee, Chairman: Hon. Charles Caccia MP.[142]

Wednesday 8th June

(J) Day of meetings at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)


      - Professor Gord Surgenor: agriculture in Ontario and biotechnology issues

      - Ontario Farm Environmental Farm Coalition: sustainable agriculture

(K)  Visit to Guelph Wet-Dry Waste Management Facility

Thursday 9th June

(L) Meeting with Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO): Mr Gord Miller.

(M) Meetings at the Environment Ministry, Ontario


      - Mr Doug Harper: environmental accountability

      - Mr Walter Chan: emissions monitoring and reporting

      - Environmental accountability in business planning

(N) Mr Colin Isaacs: industry perspectives on environmental issues.

(O) Visit to Ontario Parliament.

Environmental Audit In Canada

Federal—the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

1. The position of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, within the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, was one of the important changes resulting from the 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act. These amendments were enacted to encourage stronger performance by the federal government in the areas of environment and sustainable development.

2. On 16 March 1994, the Minister of the Environment asked the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to examine ways in which an environmental auditor general might be constituted to ensure that the government's actions are carried out in a sustainable manner. Following recommendations from the Standing Committee, the Government enacted in December 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act.

3. These amendments:

4. The first Commissioner was appointed in June 1996, and departments were required to table their first sustainable development strategies by December 1997. In his annual reports to Parliament, the Commissioner may report on anything which he considers should be brought to the attention of the House in relation to environmental and other aspects of sustainable development, including the extent to which departments have met the objectives, and implemented the plans, set out in their sustainable development strategies; and the number of petitions received, their subject matter and status. The remit of the CESD has enabled his office to conduct a series of studies on "cutting edge" environmental and sustainable development issues, such as Canada's international environmental commitments and the extent to which they are being met; environmental issues and the Arctic; managing for sustainable development in both the public and private sectors; and the partnerships between federal departments and the provinces, the private sector or other federal departments.

5. The Commissioner's reports are tabled before the House of Commons Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. In common with other House of Commons committees, this body's remit covers legislative, departmental and policy scrutiny and as such the Committee is extremely busy and its programme can be dominated at any one time by the Government's legislative programme.

Provincial - the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO)

6. In 1994, the Ontario provincial government passed an Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) to help protect and restore the natural environment. The EBR established a formal framework for Government's notification of the public about proposed legislation, policies, regulations and other legal instruments that will have a significant effect on the environment and then considering the public's input before the government makes a final decision. Central to this process was the creation of the Environmental Registry where notice and information on environmentally significant proposals, decisions, court actions and other information relating to ministerial decisions are required to be posted. Oversight of this process was made the responsibility of an Environmental Commissioner (the ECO). The first Commissioner was appointed in June 1996.

7. The EBR created new rights for members of the public to participate in the Ontario government's environmetal decision making process. It enabled members of the public to:

    - comment on proposed laws (including Acts, policies, regulations and instruments) that are environmentally significant;

    - appeal against certain environmental decisions;

    - ask a ministry to review existing acts or policy instruments or consider creating new ones;

    - ask a ministry to investigate cases where there is suspected harm to the environment;

    - go to court if you think someone is harming the environment; and

    - take action, without fear of reprisal, where an employer was harming the environment.

8. The EBR also required government ministries to develop Statements of Environmental Values (SEVs). These are in effect departmental sustainable development strategies setting out (a) the account to be taken of the environment in cases where a Ministry takes decisions which may have environmental impacts and (b) the need to integrate environmental values with social, economic and scientific considerations. The SEVs therefore provide a mechanism by which to assess the extent to which Ministries were applying the principles of the EBR.

9. The Commissioner is there to ensure the effective operation of these mechanisms. The Commissioner is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly, appointed for a five­year term. His main functions are to:

    - report annually to the Legislative Assembly on how ministries comply with the EBR;

    - review how ministries use public input to draft environmental Acts, regulations and policies, and how ministries investigate reported EBR violations.

    - process and monitor appeals from members of the public under the EBR and provide assistance and information if required;

    - review the use of the Environmental Registry;

    - review the use of EBR procedures to protect employees who experience reprisals for "whistle­blowing";

    - assist ministries to develop thorough and consistent Statements of Environmental Values.

10. The Commissioner's remit therefore allows him to report on a wide range of environmental matters, including policy issues, in relation to the way departments are implementing the objectives of the EBR. It also includes an important ombudsman-role in response to complaints from the public in relation to their rights under the EBR.

See­05­09/han093­e.htm Back

142  See Minutes of Proceedings of the Canadian House of Commons Environment Committee, 9 July 2000 Back

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