Backgrounder

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

During its 136-year history, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada has conducted many audits of environmental and sustainable development matters. Since 1995, it has had a specific mandate in this area, thanks to amendments to the Auditor General Act.

The 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act

Under the terms of the 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

  • is appointed by the Auditor General of Canada;
  • helps the Auditor General carry out environmental auditing responsibilities;
  • monitors and reports on federal departments’ progress in implementing their sustainable development strategies; and
  • manages the petitions process on behalf of the Auditor General.

The Commissioner conducts performance audits of the federal government’s management of environmental and sustainable development issues and reports to Parliament on behalf of the Auditor General. The Commissioner holds the rank of Assistant Auditor General.

Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Commissioner must review a draft of the federal government’s sustainable development strategy and comment on whether the targets and implementation strategies can be assessed. The Commissioner must also monitor and report on the extent to which federal departments have contributed to meeting the targets and goals set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

At the international level, the Commissioner plays an active role in the Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA), which is part of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), by helping to produce guidelines and reports, and by helping to develop and implement training for environmental auditors. The WGEA aims to improve the use of audit mandates and audit tools in the field of environment (www.environmental-auditing.org).

Panel of Environmental Advisors advises the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on his work on behalf of the Auditor General, and on environmental and sustainable development matters.

In March 2014, Julie Gelfand was appointed Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Previous Commissioners

  • Neil Maxwell (Interim Commissioner, April 2013 to March 2014)
  • Scott Vaughan (May 2008 to April 2013)
  • Ron Thompson, FCA (Interim Commissioner, January 2007 to May 2008)
  • Johanne Gélinas (August 2000 to January 2007)
  • Rick Smith (Interim Commissioner, January to August 2000)
  • Brian Emmett (June 1996 to January 2000)