Canada’s environment watchdog has slammed the federal government for failing to keep its environmental commitments most of the time.
In a report to Parliament, the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development gave the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper a failing grade in 9 out of 14 problem areas that the commissioner had already identified.
In the areas where government fell short of its word, Commissioner Ron Thompson said his team, “observed lack of commitment at senior levels, and often inadequate funding.”
Which is to say that Environment Minister John Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper often say the right things about the environment, promising government attention. But in 14 cases where the commissioner - part of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada - had drawn attention to a problem, the government has failed to follow through two-thirds of the time.
It’s interesting to note that Thompson chose on this occasion to look past the Harper government’s inaction on the global warming file. In addition to the 14 specific areas of review, Thomspon says:
The government is facing other environmental challenges—including climate change, the theme of the Commissioner’s 2006 Report.
Then Thompson gives what must be taken as good advice to any government or corporate leader who is trying to communicate believably on environmental issues. He says:
It will be important for the government to develop clear and realistic overall objectives that are specific and measurable, with targets and milestones, in order to ensure that its many environmental challenges are addressed in a practical and coordinated manner by departments and agencies. Once an overall plan is in place, it needs to be brought to life by establishing clear and realistic department objectives, strong commitment at senior levels, clear direction, and adequate funding.
Objectives that are clear and measurable, strong commitment and adequate funding: that’s a pretty concise list of what’s missing in the current government’s environmental policy - and in its communications. It helps explain why people continue to mistrust government on this important issue