Auditor General plans federal SD strategies

Ottawa, Canada - Sustainable development strategies introduced a decade ago to encourage federal government departments to take environmental issues into account when making decisions have failed to meet Parliament’s expectations, says the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Ron Thompson, in his Report tabled in the House of Commons.

He notes that the ambition and momentum that existed originally have faded and that strategies are a major disappointment.

The Report also notes that despite repeated commitments, there is still no sustainable development strategy for the federal government as a whole to guide the efforts of the 32 departments and agencies now producing strategies. In addition, the guidance provided to departments for their most recent strategies is ambiguous and optional.

Thompson criticized the government’s long-standing commitment to execute sustainable development practices as a patchwork of plans that senior bureaucrats and parliamentary committees largely fail to take seriously. He says that efforts to mark progress toward those goals among various disjointed departmental strategies remains similar to trying to assemble a “complicated jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box.”

Even Environment Canada’s most recent attempt at guidance for all departments on how to green up their practices failed to hit the mark, Thompson said. “The guidance provides no indicators to clarify the government’s expectations for clean air, clean water, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable communities, governance for sustainable development, or sustainable development and use of natural resources,” says the report.

Of 101 specific departmental commitments examined by the environment commissioner’s office, fewer than half (46) have shown satisfactory progress. Of the most recent 11 commitments detailed in this year’s report, only five were found to be satisfactory.

The report calls on the government to carry out a thorough review of what needs to be fixed. The review should result in a concrete action plan to ensure that the government delivers results that will meet Parliament’s expectations, as envisioned in 1995 when it amended the Auditor General Act.

“We found little evidence that the Strategies have encouraged departments to integrate protection of the environment with economic and social issues in a meaningful way”, said Mr. Thompson. “I am pleased that the government has agreed to complete a review by October 2008.”

View the full reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

For More Information: Auditor General of Canada

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.