VICTORIA— A damning report from B.C.'s Auditor General shows that the Liberal government has failed to properly monitor major industrial projects which have the potential for significant adverse environmental effects, and is relying mostly on industry self-monitoring without government inspections or enforcement, says New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming.
“This report highlights the ongoing failure of the Clark Liberal government to protect the environment,” said Fleming. “It shows that after a decade of cuts to monitoring and enforcement, the Liberals simply can’t be trusted to stand up for the interests of communities, First Nations and the environment.”
The Auditor General's report concluded “that the EAO’s oversight of certified projects is not sufficient to ensure that potential significant adverse effects are avoided or mitigated,” and pointed out that the assessment office is “not significantly active” in inspections of projects and enforcement actions.
“The Auditor General found the Liberals are relying on self-reporting without inspections instead of having qualified staff on the ground ensuring that companies are living up to their commitments to protect the environment,” said Fleming. “The Liberals can talk about environmental standards all they want, but standards are utterly meaningless without monitoring and enforcement.”
Even more disturbing, according to Fleming, is the fact that “the EAO does not formally track” or independently pursue complaints about the impact that projects are having on the environment. The Liberals shut down an innovative EAO compliance and inspection pilot project in 2004.
“Not only are the Liberals failing to monitor and inspect these projects, they are failing to listen when residents, communities, and First Nations raise concerns about these projects,” said Fleming. “The B.C. Liberals can't be trusted to keep their environmental promises.”
Fleming noted that not only are the Liberals failing to properly monitor and protect the air, water and land, but that in many cases the environmental assessment certificates issued to companies don't even have enforceable terms. The Auditor General found the province is failing to legally articulate its interests with “an absence of provincial legislation or policy concerning options for mitigation, including offsetting environmental impacts of major projects.”
“This report exposes the emptiness of Premier Clark's 'families first' rhetoric,” said Fleming. “The Liberal government is neglecting the best interests of B.C. families by failing to monitor and protect the clean air, fresh water and land base that we all rely on and failing to ensure that companies are living up to their commitment to provide benefits to families and communities in return for access to our natural resources.”
Adrian Dix and the New Democrats have proposed an environmental plan that would reinvest carbon tax revenue in transit and climate change initiatives, create green jobs, and offer legislated protection for species at risk.