Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting us this morning. I'm pleased to be here to present my 2009 spring report, which was tabled in the House of Commons on May 12. The May report comprises two chapters, “Protecting Fish Habitat” and the “Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act”.
Let me begin with Protecting Fish Habitat. We examined the role played by two federal departments—Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada—in the protection of fish habitat.
Fish habitat is a national asset. It provides food and shelter for aquatic wildlife as well as water for human consumption. The fish habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act are important pieces of environmental legislation relating to aquatic ecosystems. In this audit we looked at ways Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada carry out their respective responsibilities for fish habitat protection and for pollution prevention.
We found that efforts to protect fish habitat have been inadequate. In the 23 years since the habitat policy was adopted, many parts of the policy have been implemented only partially by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or not at all. This could be putting fish habitat in jeopardy. The department does not know whether there has been an overall habitat loss or gain. For example, it has limited information on fish stocks, the quality of fish habitat, contaminants in fish and water quality nationwide.
There has been little progress since 2001, when we last reported that Fisheries and Oceans Canada could not determine the extent to which it is progressing toward the policy's long-term objective of a net gain in fish habitat. Fisheries and Oceans has made progress in implementing its environmental process modernization plan so that it can better manage risk that projects pose to fish habitat. However, the department has little documentation to show that it has monitored the impact on habitat that actually occurs, whether habitat was protected by mitigation measures the department required as a condition for improving certain projects, or the extent to which project proponents actually compensated for any habitat loss.
In addition, the department reduced enforcement activity by half and, at the time of our audit, had not yet hired habitat monitors to offset this reduction. We note that Environment Canada has not yet identified what it has to do to fulfil its responsibilities under the Fisheries Act related to prohibiting the deposit of harmful substances like pollutants into fresh water and coastal waters that contain fish. It has not established clear priorities or results. It does not have a systematic approach to addressing risks of non-compliance with the act that allows it to focus its resources where significant harm to fish habitat is most likely to occur.
Environment Canada does not know whether the results of its own administration of the Fisheries Act are sufficient to satisfy the strict prohibition against pollution that the Fisheries Act imposes.
Finally, Mr. Chair, we found little formal coordination between the two departments to set priorities or to develop common criteria for habitat protection.
The two departments have accepted all of our recommendations for this chapter.
Turning now to the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the act was passed by Parliament in 2007. It requires the government to produce a plan each year showing how Canada will meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol by 2012. It also requires me to issue reports to Parliament on Canada's progress. This is my first report in accordance with these obligations.
The government has completed two climate change plans, which include targets for reductions in emissions of greenhouse gas within the Kyoto Protocol period, 2008 to 2012. We found that the plans do not include all of the information required under the act.
We found that the government will be unable to determine actual emission reductions achieved for each of the measures in its plans as the act requires. Without a system to count real emission reductions resulting from its measures, the government will be unable to inform Parliament whether the measures are working.
We also found that Environment Canada has overstated the expected reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for the 2008 to 2012 Kyoto Protocol period.
Lastly, the audit also found that the plans lacked transparency. For example, they did not disclose how reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be affected by various uncertainties, including economic fluctuations.
Environment Canada has accepted most of our recommendations and has committed to follow through on them in the next climate change plan.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my opening statement. We will be pleased to answer questions.