OTTAWA—Canada’s environment watchdog says the feds are doing a good job cracking down on environmental delinquents, but not so much when it comes to following up.
A lack of follow-through is the main theme in Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan’s latest reports.
He examined how the government polices dangerous goods shipments, enforces environmental law and shares its research with decision-makers.
Tens of millions of dangerous products—such as gas, chemicals and explosives—are shipped across Canada every year by road, rail and air.
Transport Canada is responsible for enforcing these regulations, but Vaughan found the department has not checked up on many cases of non-compliance.
Auditors reviewed 49 case files from inspections carried out between 2008 and 2010. More than half the files noted violations ranging from missing documentation to problems with the shipping containers.
In most cases, auditors found little or no evidence Transport Canada confirmed the problems had been fixed.
These problems are not new. An internal audit more than five years old flagged identical concerns.
Environment Minister Peter Kent says most dangerous goods shipments get to their destination without any problems.
“We are proud of our record on the shipment of dangerous products, as 99.9 per cent reach their destination without incident,” he said.
The National Energy Board regulates oil and gas flowing through pipelines. Vaughan’s team looked at 56 compliance reports from 2007 to 2010 and found little follow-up.
Nearly two-thirds of the agency’s files flagged violations. But inspectors only checked up on seven per cent of those cases to ensure corrective action had been taken.
When it came to enforcing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Vaughan found Environment Canada was not much better.
Auditors found the department does not even know if it is targeting the highest-risk violators that pose the biggest danger to human health and the environment.
The department has not followed up on half the warnings, tickets or other penalties it has issued, the report says.