Canada blasted by own environmental watchdog

Thu Mar 6, 2008 6:53pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's environmental watchdog warned on Thursday that the government was not following through on its past promises to improve protection of the environment.

A lack of funding and commitment by top officials has resulted in an unsatisfactory job in areas such as wildlife protection and restoring heavily polluted areas of the Great Lakes, according to the report to Parliament.

The report by the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development complained that Ottawa had also failed to provide an "understandable picture" of what was expected from its international environmental agreements.

The commissioner's office audited 14 problems its had identified in the past to see if the government had followed through on promises to take action.

"Progress in nine areas is unsatisfactory largely because the government did not follow through on its own commitments to strengthen protection of the environment," Commissioner Ron Thompson said in a statement.

The report said that Ottawa was making satisfactory progress in areas such as managing pesticides and dealing with contaminated sites.

Among the more than 100 international environmental agreements Canada has signed is the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, but the Conservative government has said the country cannot meet those commitments.

The commissioner's office said it did not look at whether the agreements had been successful but at whether there was enough information available to let Canadians and lawmakers judge if Ottawa was meeting its commitments.

A coalition of environmental groups is scheduled to release a report to Parliament on Friday on how Canada can improve its economic competitiveness while improving the health of the environment.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Rob Wilson)