Environment Minister Jim Prentice wants to know what Canadians think about a proposed new strategy to ensure the environment is taken into consideration when the federal government develops policies and programs.
His department has posted a consultation paper, Planning for a Sustainable Future: A Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada, online here. The strategy proposes a new approach to monitoring and reporting using data from the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program that was funded in the 2010 budget. Progress reports would be compiled every three years.
The website allows feedback and the deadline for submitting comments is July 12, 2010. The consultation comes as the government's environmental policy has taken a sustained attack in the wake of the federal budget.
Environmentalists point out that new fiscal plan offers no new money to the decade-old Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the country's main fund for scientists studying everything from global climate models, to the melting of polar ice and frequency of Arctic storms, to prairie droughts and shrinking Rocky Mountain glaciers. They say it offers no money to create new jobs in green energy sectors such as solar and wind power.
And documents obtained by Mike de Souza of Canwest News say scientists at Environment Canada feel they are being muzzled by the government's communications policy.
The documents suggest the communications policy has eliminated senior federal scientists from media coverage of climate-change issues.
They note that four prominent scientists, who regularly spoke for the government of Canada on climate change issues, appeared in only 12 newspaper clippings in the first nine months of 2008, compared with 99 clippings over the same period in 2007.
(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)
Update More than one person with an interest in the environmental file has pointed out that the Federal Sustainable Development Act requires the government to develop a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy by June 26, 2010. There is a legally-required 120-day consultation period written into the Act.
So, says one of them, "all Mr. Prentice is doing is obeying the law and holding a consultation - late. His government forced him to break the law and miss the deadline when they prorogued Parliament, though, so the comment period closes more than two weeks after the final strategy is required to be completed."