Ot­tawa not do­ing its job to hold Volk­swa­gen to ac­count, groups say

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD -

OT­TAWA — En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna is fac­ing le­gal ac­tion from sev­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal groups who ac­cuse the gov­ern­ment of drag­ging its heels on in­ves­ti­gat­ing Volk­swa­gen for dup­ing Cana­di­ans with diesel en­gines.

Volk­swa­gen pleaded guilty in the U.S. in March af­ter soft­ware was found in cer­tain diesel ve­hi­cles that made it ap­pear as though the cars were pro­duc­ing fewer emis­sions than they re­ally were.

In fact, un­der nor­mal con­di­tions, the cars emit­ted 35 times Canada’s le­gal limit on ni­tro­gen ox­ides, which have ad­verse ef­fects on hu­man health and con­trib­ute to cli­mate change.

About 105,000 of the rigged ve­hi­cles were sold in Canada and Volk­swa­gen has a court-cer­ti­fied set­tle­ment pro­gram un­der­way to buy back the cars and com­pen­sate Cana­di­ans who owned or leased them.

A state­ment from McKenna says her depart­ment is in­ves­ti­gat­ing and will act if nec­es­sary, but that in­ves­ti­ga­tion is nearly two years old and two groups, En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence and the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Physi­cians for the En­vi­ron­ment, are tired of wait­ing.

Tim Gray, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence, said his or­ga­ni­za­tion heard in­for­mally from the gov­ern­ment that al­most two years af­ter the depart­ment be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing there wasn’t a lot of con­fi­dence Canada could do any­thing about the Volk­swa­gen vi­o­la­tions.

He said if the gov­ern­ment doesn’t act when there is a “vi­o­la­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal law at this scale” and an ad­mis­sion of guilt in the United States re­gard­ing the same cars, it sends a hor­ri­ble mes­sage.

“It ba­si­cally puts a mark on Canada as a place to get away with dump­ing your crap into the en­vi­ron­ment and noth­ing will be done about it,” said Gray.

So on June the two agen­cies joined forces to ap­ply for a min­is­te­rial in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be launched un­der the Cana­dian En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act.

Pro­vi­sions of that act al­low a mem­ber of the pub­lic to seek a min­is­ter’s probe into al­le­ga­tions of vi­o­la­tions of the act and to be up­dated on that in­ves­ti­ga­tion ev­ery 90 days.

The ap­pli­ca­tion asked for in­ves­ti­ga­tions into four al­le­ga­tions in­clud­ing that Volk­swa­gen im­ported cars that vi­o­lated Cana­dian emis­sions re­quire­ments, ap­plied the Na­tional Emis­sions Mark on diesel cars which didn’t meet the stan­dards and then sold those cars, pro­vided false and mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion and ear­lier this year re­sumed sales of the 2015 mod­els with­out fix­ing the emis­sions prob­lem.

En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada’s En­vi­ron­men­tal En­force­ment Direc­torate re­sponded by say­ing be­cause the depart­ment was al­ready do­ing an in­house in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the first three items, there would be no min­is­te­rial probe.

The depart­ment said it would launch a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the last claim, which looks at what Volk­swa­gen did to fix its 2015 diesel-en­gine cars be­fore start­ing to sell them again in Canada.

This week the two or­ga­ni­za­tions filed suit to force McKenna to com­ply with their ap­pli­ca­tion on all four is­sues.

En­vi­ron­ment Canada spokesper­son Mark John­son said in an email it is not ab­nor­mal for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of this com­plex­ity to take two or three years and that work has to be com­pleted to put to­gether the strong­est pos­si­ble case.

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