Media Release

Group Files Petition to Environmental Commissioner Concerning Proposed Deal to Hand Off Federal Environmental Role to Provinces

Jan 22 1998

The Canadian Environmental Law Association filed a formal petition today to Brian Emmett, the federal Environmental Commissioner, pursuant to section 22.1 of the Auditor General Act. The petition denounces a federal-provincial agreement that will download significant federal environmental responsibilities to the provinces and urges that the deal be scrapped. The "Environmental Harmonization Accord" is set to be concluded on January 29, 1998 at the next meeting of the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME) in St. John's Newfoundland. "We are urging the federal Environment Minister to refrain from signing the Accord and appealing to the Environmental Commissioner to review and comment on the proposed environmental agreement. We are convinced the Environmental Commissioner will understand the devastating effects of it for federal environmental policy," noted Paul Muldoon, counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. "It seems that the Prime Minister is willing to give away major aspects of the federal environmental role to appease the provinces. This strategy is unacceptable." The proposed agreement would give the provinces the overall say in a number of vital areas affecting the environment, such as environmental assessment, standard-setting and inspections/ enforcement. However, many provinces do not the capacity or the political will to pick up the responsibilities handed to them by the federal government. In Ontario, the environment ministry has been cut by almost 40% with similar cuts in other provinces. Alberta has had an over 30% reduction while Newfoundland has had a 60% reduction. The petition filed today supports the recommendations of the report issued by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in December of 1997 calling on the federal government to defer concluding the agreement. The federal government has yet to respond to the Standing Committee's report.- 30 -For more information:Paul Muldoon at CELA, 416-960-2284