Media Release

Federal Government Surrenders Environmental Mandate to Provinces

Jan 30 1998

St.John's. The federal government agreed to turn its key environmental responsibilities over to the provinces at a meeting of the federal and provincial environment ministers today in St.John's, Newfoundland.A ‘National Accord on Environmental Harmonization' and three sub-agreements, dealing with environmental assessment, the establishment of national environmental standards, and inspection activities under federal environmental laws, were signed by federal Minister Christine Stewart today at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). "The signing of the Accord marks the end any significant role for the federal government in the protection of the environment for the foreseeable future," said Shelley Bryant, Executive Director of Action:Environment who is attending the CCME meeting as an observer.In the signing the Accord, the federal government has chosen to ignore the advice of members of all five parliamentary parties represented on the House of Commons Standing Committee on the environment. The Committee tabled a report in December raising serious questions about the rationale for the environmental ‘harmonization' agreement, and recommending that the federal government not proceed with its signing. The federal government has also turned its back on the Supreme Court of Canada's three month old Hydro Quebec decision. In that decision, the Court declared the protection on the environment to be one of the ‘greatest challenges of our time' and affirmed both the legal right and moral duty of the federal government to play a leading role in environmental protection in Canada and on the international stage. "Today's events can only be described as a disaster from the perspective of the protection of Canada's environment. The Agreement will make it virtually impossible to deal with the major environmental challenges facing Canada. The implications for such things as the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on Global Climate Change, and the renewal of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are simply horrendous" added Paul Muldoon, Counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association."This may well be the darkest day Canada's environment has faced in the past quarter century," concluded Mary Ann Bowden, Professor of Law.- 30 -For more information:Paul Muldoon, Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association - Toronto, Ontario - 416-960-2284Shelley Bryant, Executive Director,Action: Environment, St. John's, Newfoundland - 709-753-3680Mary Ann Bowden, Professor of Law, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - 306-966-5894Mark Winfield, Director of Research, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, Toronto, Ontario - 416-923-3529