Mr. Speaker, on March 12, I asked the Minister of the Environment if Environment Canada had sufficient resources to fulfil legal responsibilities and to enforce regulations contained in the current Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
The minister replied that his department had sufficient resources to deal with every element of environmental protection under the current act. The standing committee was contrary in its findings. On February 26 Environment Canada's deputy minister responded to committee questions by indicating that the environment enforcement program lacked adequate human and financial resources.
The standing committee report entitled “Enforcing Canada's Pollution Laws: The Public Interest Must Come First” raises concern that crown liability for failure to enforce environmental legislation may lead to actions against Environment Canada for regulatory negligence. It also highlights the need for more human and financial resources.
The environment minister stated on national television that there had not been recent cuts to the environment enforcement program. Following the interview Canadians could read the figures for themselves.
In 1995 there were 28 investigators to protect Canada's environment from pollution and assorted environmental impacts and infractions. Today there are 17 investigators or a loss of 11 investigators.
The environment minister stated time and time again that the Liberal government provided the highest environmental standards for Canadians. It is a convenient answer when opposition members call the government to account for the deterioration of environmental standards across the country.
The Canadian public does not know the critical state of Canada's environment. Most Canadians would be shocked to learn that entire sections of CEPA are not enforced in some provinces.
The minister re-signed an agreement with Quebec to monitor pulp and paper effluents. The next day it was reported that at least 20 infractions were not being enforced in that province.
Most Canadians would be shocked to know that the entire CEPA budget for Atlantic Canada above salaries and operating expenses is $150,000 for the region.
The Pacific-Yukon region where 16 people are expected by the government to cover an approximate 17,200 possible sites where federal regulations may apply will lose a third of its budget this year.
The government has more parking enforcement officers on Parliament Hill than there are six field inspectors for the entire prairie and northern region, an area larger than Europe.
Before the program reviews which slashed an estimated 40% from Environment Canada's budgets since the Liberal took office, an internal Environment Canada report recommended 300 enforcement personnel would be needed to protect our environment. In reality today there are fewer than 70 people.
The environment minister stated the benefits of voluntary compliance and reporting programs. Canadians should know that report after report has stated otherwise. Voluntary alone does not work. Industry complies when federal regulations are applied.
We are not saying there is a lot of bad apples but there are a few that require monitoring. For instance in this wonderful land we call home, Canada, the harsh climate does not allow us to leave any window or door open without compromising everybody's comfort or safety.
The standing committee received numerous presentations from Canada's environment community which concur that voluntary programs are insufficient for environmental protection. Why would the minister continue to pursue a policy that people in her own department stated does not work? Who is the government trying to protect?
A lack of leadership and political will was highlighted—