Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development’s Opening Statement—2018 Spring Reports Press Conference

2018 Spring Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the Parliament of Canada Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development’s Opening Statement

Good morning. I am pleased to be here to discuss the findings of 3 audits tabled in the House of Commons earlier today.

These audits show that the Government of Canada’s efforts to achieve sustainable development are still falling short of integrating the economy, society, and the environment. It’s not the first time that I have raised this concern.

In these spring 2018 audits, we assessed Canada’s readiness to achieve the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We also examined salmon farming and conserving biodiversity. In all 3, we found examples where the federal government was not integrating the 3 dimensions of sustainable development.

In our first audit, we examined whether Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversaw the salmon farming industry to protect wild fish. This industry creates risks for wild fish, including exposure to diseases, drugs and pesticides.

We found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada does conduct research on these and other risks. We also found that the Department determines where salmon farms can be located or expanded, and under what conditions farms may operate.

However, we found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada had no national standard for nets and other equipment to prevent escapes from fish farms, nor did it adequately enforce compliance with aquaculture regulations.

As well, the Department had not set limits on the amount of drugs and pesticides that fish farms can use to treat diseases and parasites. This is important because drugs and pesticides used in salmon farming can harm wild fish, especially those living on the ocean floor.

The Department had only completed 1/10 of risk assessments for key known diseases, and it was not addressing new and emerging diseases. Most importantly, we found that the Department was not monitoring the health of wild fish. As a result, Fisheries and Oceans Canada had no way of knowing what impacts salmon farming has on the health of wild fish.

These findings led us to conclude that Fisheries and Oceans Canada had not managed risks from salmon farming in a way that protected wild fish. Among our recommendations, we stated that the Department should clearly articulate the level of risk to wild fish that it accepts when enabling the aquaculture industry.

Moving on now to biodiversity, our second audit examined whether Environment and Climate Change Canada had provided the national leadership required to meet Canada’s 2020 biodiversity commitment.

In our view, Canada will not meet its commitment. We found that the 5 federal departments and agencies we audited had made uneven progress in their efforts to meet 6 specific biodiversity targets. In addition, Environment and Climate Change Canada had not provided the required national leadership and coordination.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has focused its leadership efforts on attending international meetings on behalf of Canada, creating national committees and coordinating reports. The Department did not coordinate actions with its federal, provincial, and territorial partners to achieve the 2020 biodiversity targets.

Let’s turn to our last audit, which looked at 7 federal departments and agencies to assess whether the government was prepared to implement the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This audit is Canada’s contribution to an effort by Auditors General from around the world to assess their governments’ preparedness to implement international sustainable development commitments.

Canada adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015, as part of a worldwide effort to achieve the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals. These goals call for action in many areas to achieve a sustainable world, including quality education, sustainable cities and economic growth, and biodiversity conservation.

Three years since making this commitment, the government is not prepared to implement the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. It does not have a whole-of-government approach; leadership to implement is split between five departments—in my opinion, it is difficult to make progress with 10 hands on the wheel. We also found that the government has no communication or engagement strategy to include other levels of government and Canadians. Lastly, it has yet to develop a complete set of national targets.

Although data is being collected to measure Canada’s performance against the 2030 Agenda’s global indicators, we found no system to measure, monitor and report on progress against national targets once they are defined.

Without a clear leader, an implementation plan, and accurate and ongoing measurement and monitoring of results, Canada will not be able to fulfill the commitments it made to its citizens, and to the United Nations.

Given the risks to sustainable development we identified in these and in previous audits, we still have not seen the federal government integrate in a meaningful way the economy, society, and the environment.

Thank you, I am now ready to answer your questions.