Canada's Pro-Kyoto Gov't Accused of Hypocrisy Over Environment

By Howard Williams | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Ottawa ( - Canada's government has been slammed by parliament's top watchdog agency for not practicing what it preaches on the environment, even though it is one of the main advocates for implementing the controversial Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Johanne Gelinas, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development in the Auditor-General's office, said the government had the habit of making strong announcements that were forgotten "as soon as the confetti hits the ground."

In a special report released Thursday, she noted that the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin had loudly criticized the Bush administration for not signing on to Kyoto, an international treaty that requires industrialized nations to reduce emissions of "greenhouse gases" that some blame for climate change.

Gelinas said the government had also argued that Kyoto was necessary for protecting the oceans and the Arctic ice-cap, promoting biodiversity and ensuring safe drinking water, but in practice had done a poor job promoting those very objectives.

Even within government departments, she said, Ottawa had no policy of buying environmentally sound products.

"The government wants Canadians to do their part in greening their daily activities. It should ask of others only what it is prepared to do itself."

Environment Minister Stephane Dion unexpectedly agreed with Gelinas' criticisms.

"What we have achieved is not at the level of what we have committed," he acknowledged, pledging to do better. "We need to be sure we will be at the end as strong as we claimed we would be at the start."

Dion said the government would deliver on commitments, including the establishment of new marine protected areas.

Gelinas complained, however, that the government had made bold announcements but was then "chronically unable to sustain initiatives once they are launched."

She blamed the situation on bureaucratic infighting and turf wars within the government, saying these were hampering efforts to co-ordinate programs that cross department boundaries.

Gelinas' criticisms were endorsed by Jack Layton, leader of the left-wing New Democratic Party which was instrumental earlier this year in saving the minority Martin government from a no-confidence vote in parliament.

"Canadians are sick and tired of the ribbon-cutting, the announcements, the press releases, the press conferences, the self-satisfied claims of all the wonderful things we're doing on the environment that you hear from the Liberals," he told reporters.

"They're constantly praising themselves. Why aren't they cleaning the air? We couldn't breathe this summer. [It was the] worst smog season ever and yet you've got the Liberals out there saying that we're the champions of the environment and the best that you're going to find globally."

Layton - no fan of President Bush - said the U.S. president "has a better record when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions than Canada. That to me summarizes it for Canadians."

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