Emis­sions: Im­pos­si­ble

An un­prece­dented au­dit shows that Canada’s cli­mate change pol­icy is miss­ing its tar­gets

The Walrus - - CONTENTS - by Anne Cas­sel­man

Mike john­son, the emer­gen­cy­man­age­ment coordinato­r for Cum­ber­land County, Nova Sco­tia, is a man on a dead­line. He has six­teen years be­fore the moon and the Earth align and pro­duce an ex­cep­tion­ally high tide, an astro­nom­i­cal “king tide,” in his county. Some things about that day are a cer­tainty. He knows that the tides at the head of the Bay of Fundy, where Nova Sco­tia is con­nected to New Brunswick by the twenty-four-kilo­me­tre-wide Chignecto Isth­mus, rise as much as six­teen me­tres — the largest on earth. And he knows that a se­ries of earthen dikes is all that stands as a de­fence against cat­a­strophic flood­ing. The last time such a large king tide hit, in 2015, John­son stood on the banks of the Tantra­mar Marshes, as six­tyk­ilo­me­tre-per-hour winds spat ocean spray into his face, and watched the sea nearly over­top the dikes. There was a fifty-cen­time­tre storm surge that day, a re­sult of the ocean bulging from a low-pres­sure sys­tem nearby, which, to­gether with high winds, com­pounded the tide’s high-wa­ter mark. The nor­mally pas­toral land­scape was al­ready partly flooded with sea­wa­ter. As he turned back to­ward his car, he saw a CN train cau­tiously mak­ing its way along the tracks that run atop the dike. The wa­ter was nip­ping at the rail­way ties. He could see head­lights of cars, driv­ing along the Trans- Canada High­way be­hind the train, obliv­i­ous to the fact that a hand’s length of dike was all that held back the ocean from pour­ing onto the high­way, flood­ing the isth­mus, and ef­fec­tively turn­ing Nova Sco­tia into an is­land.

John­son knew then that it wouldn’t take much more for dis­as­ter to strike. When it does, John­son’s pri­or­ity will be to save lives by evac­u­at­ing thearea. But de­pend­ing on the sever­ity of flood­ing, a lot more is at stake. Some $50 mil­lion of goods course through that high­way and rail line ev­ery day. Pre­dic­tions show that by the next king tide, the ocean will have gained another 7.5 cen­time­tres or more on the dikes due to a com­bi­na­tion of sea-level rise from cli­mate change and the land nat­u­rally sinking — ren­der­ing the dikes use­less in a sim­i­lar storm surge. John­son might not have to wait six­teen years ei­ther; given the right com­bi­na­tion of stormy weather, high tides, and in­ex­orable sea-level rise, the dikes could be over­topped any day now. “We’ve been warned for a num­ber of years now that sea level would be ris­ing and the ef­fects of cli­mate change and how it would im­pact us,” he says. “It’s not com­ing any­more. It’s here.”

Nine hun­dred kilo­me­tres away from the mud-marsh dikes of the Chignecto Isth­mus, staff at the fed­eral Of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral in Ot­tawa are two weeks away from tabling an un­prece­dented col­lab­o­ra­tive re­port on the state of cli­mate change ac­tion and pre­pared­ness in Canada. The gen­tle sounds of typ­ing, mouse clicks, and over­head fans float above the cu­bi­cles. On the face of it, the still­ness of the toil within the im­pas­sive of­fice couldn’t seem fur­ther from the drama on Mike John­son’s hori­zon, but the work at the of­fice has ev­ery­thing to do with the ris­ing seas gain­ing on Cum­ber­land County’s dikes. Their na­tion­wide as­sess­ment will tell us just how in­suf­fi­ciently gov­ern­ments across Canada are serv­ing us as we en­ter this age of cli­mate in­sta­bil­ity and

how and where they all need to pick up the slack. “Cli­mate change is one of the big­gest is­sues that we are fac­ing this cen­tury,” says fed­eral com­mis­sioner of the en­vi­ron­ment and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment Julie Gelfand, whose of­fice co­or­di­nated the au­dit. “We are feel­ing the ef­fects al­ready, and they are hav­ing an im­pact.” Since 1948, Canada has warmed by 1.6 de­grees, twice the global rate, with our west­ern and north­ern re­gions warm­ing the most. Al­ready, we have evac­u­ated an en­tire city as it burned (Fort Mcmur­ray’s “the Beast” de­stroyed 2,400 homes and 18,600 cars), wit­nessed land­scapes trans­form (per­mafrost is cur­rently thaw­ing at least 136,000 square kilo­me­tres of Canada’s tun­dra, caus­ing mas­sive land­slides and sink­holes), and seen geopol­i­tics shift on our doorstep (the Chi­nese ice­breaker Snow Dragon tra­versed the North­west Pas­sage last year in the initial push to build a “Polar Silk Road” as Arc­tic sea ice re­treats). Of all the haz­ards that cli­mate change brings to us more fre­quently and fe­ro­ciously — wild­fires, drought, per­mafrost melt, dis­ease — flood­ing poses the big­gest risk to the most Cana­di­ans, en­dan­ger­ing some 1.7 mil­lion house­holds. For ev­ery de­gree of warm­ing, the air can hold 7 per­cent more mois­ture — which means that as pre­cip­i­ta­tion in­creases, so does its in­ten­sity. In the past half cen­tury, pre­cip­i­ta­tion across Canada has in­creased by ap­prox­i­mately 12 per­cent. No en­ti­ties in Canada carry greater re­spon­si­bil­ity for how to han­dle these changes than our fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments. The gov­ern­ment of Canada is the big­gest landowner and largest em­ployer in the coun­try, with tan­gi­ble cap­i­tal as­sets worth ap­prox­i­mately $66 bil­lion, and its job is to en­sure the very fab­ric that holds our coun­try to­gether and keeps us safe — our health care, our high­ways, our air­ports, our in­fra­struc­ture, our de­fence — will con­tinue to func­tion in the face of cli­mate change. Only gov­ern­ment can put the pol­icy in­stru­ments in place, be they carrots or sticks, to meet our in­ter­na­tional emis­sion-re­duc­tion tar­gets and bankroll mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture up­grades. The task of hold­ing gov­ern­ments to ac­count falls to our au­di­tors gen­eral, who don’t com­ment on the mer­its of pol­icy but rather de­ter­mine whether pol­icy has been ef­fec­tively im­ple­mented and, if not, make rec­om­men­da­tions on how to close the gap be­tween words and ac­tion. At a time when pub­lic trust in gov­ern­ment is at a seven­teen-year low, the same in­de­pen­dent gov­ern­ment watch­dogs that outed the spon­sor­ship scan­dal that pre­cip­i­tated the demise of Paul Martin’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment, called out the Canada Rev­enue Agency’s chronic in­abil­ity to an­swer calls from tax­pay­ers, shamed the On­tario Min­istry of Health for its can­cer-surgery wait times, and flagged the Al­berta gov­ern­ment’s nu­ga­tory multi-bil­lion-dol­lar class-size-re­duc­tion pro­gram turned their un­flinch­ing gaze to cli­mate change. “In the post-truth world that we’re liv­ing in, I would ar­gue that our au­dits are as close to the truth as you can get,” says Gelfand. She is ef­fu­sive and can­did, with a laugh that cuts through the ten­sion of the mo­ment. At the Cana­dian Coun­cil of Leg­isla­tive Au­di­tors’ spring gen­eral meet­ing in 2015, Gelfand, two years into her seven-year term as fed­eral com­mis­sioner, was pleased to see the coun­cil de­cide to au­dit one is­sue to­gether, some­thing it had never done be­fore. For the first time in Cana­dian his­tory, not only did au­di­tors gen­eral across the coun­try agree to au­dit the same topic but the topic they chose was cli­mate change. Shortly af­ter, no­ti­fi­ca­tions be­gan to go out to fed­eral agen­cies across Canada, nine prov­inces (Que­bec had al­ready tabled two re­ports related to cli­mate change with a third un­der­way, so it was agreed it would be a part­ner not a par­tic­i­pant), and the three ter­ri­to­ries. The col­lab­o­ra­tive au­dit en­com­passed a to­tal of nine­teen fed­eral de­part­ments, dozens of pro­vin­cial de­part­ments, Crown en­ergy cor­po­ra­tions, and hun­dreds of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in an un­prece­dented ef­fort meant put the en­tire coun­try on the same page. Canada was a pioneer in de­vel­op­ing per­for­mance-au­dit method­ol­ogy, but it wasn’t un­til the 1990s that the au­di­tor gen­eral be­gan to ap­ply it to en­vi­ron­men­tal topics, even­tu­ally lead­ing to the cre­ation of the role of com­mis­sioner of the en­vi­ron­ment and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in 1995. In the words of De­nis De­sau­tels, au­di­tor gen­eral of Canada at the time: “En­vi­ron­ment be­came the fourth e in our work, along with econ­omy, ef­fi­ciency, and ef­fec­tive­ness.” Kim­ber­ley Leach, prin­ci­pal at the Of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral and de facto man­ager of the cli­mate-change au­dit­ing project, is the per­fect foil to Gelfand’s Oprah-like en­thu­si­asm, with her quiet speech and equa­nim­ity. A civil ser­vant so low pro­file that she has no Linkedin page, Leach has been chief draftsper­son be­hind many of the com­mis­sioner’s heav­i­esthit­ting au­dits in re­cent years. “Our world is in­creas­ingly in­ter­de­pen­dent, so I think col­lab­o­ra­tive au­dit­ing is both a re­ac­tion and a way for­ward on that,” she says. Over her ca­reer, she has come to know all too well that ex­am­in­ing one ju­ris­dic­tion at a time would never be enough, given the patch­work of poli­cies on cli­mate change across the coun­try. “We can look at the fed­eral regime, prov­inces can look at their own regimes, but what is the over­all pic­ture? That was our mis­sion, to be able to put to­gether those pieces,” she says. Each au­di­tor gen­eral was re­spon­si­ble for tabling a cli­mate change au­dit at its leg­is­la­ture that would then be syn­the­sized into a big-pic­ture re­port with the Ot­tawa team. The au­di­tors ex­am­ined

In­sur­ance pay­outs in Canada for ex­treme weather have al­ready sky­rock­eted in re­cent decades to $1 bil­lion a year.

two facets of cli­mate change for each of their ju­ris­dic­tions: where their gov­ern­ment stood rel­a­tive to their green­house­gas-emis­sion-re­duc­tion tar­gets and how well they were adapt­ing in the face of cli­mate change. On the cli­mate front, mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked. Be­cause our green­house-gas emis­sions are crank­ing up the Earth’s ther­mo­stat, the more car­bon diox­ide and meth­ane we pro­duce, the warmer the planet gets and the greater the changes we will face. The more we re­duce our green­house-gas emis­sions, the less steep the in­cline to over­come. But, no mat­ter what re­duc­tions in emis­sions we make to­day, cor­rect­ing the course of our cli­mate will take cen­turies. In the mean­time, adap­ta­tion is com­pul­sory. Any pol­icy area where gov­ern­ment had com­mit­ted to cli­mate change ac­tion was fair game, and on this topic, our gov­ern­ments have promised a lot. They have com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing our green­house gases many, many times. They have set dead­lines for emis­sion re­duc­tions that they’ve con­sis­tently missed. Over the last twenty-two years, Cana­di­ans have seen four dif­fer­ent fed­eral gov­ern­ments hatch seven dif­fer­ent cli­mate change plans, and all the while, our emis­sions keep ris­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the Par­lia­men­tary Bud­get Of­fice pro­jec­tions in 2016, Cana­dian emis­sions would need to fall by 208 mil­lion tonnes of CO2 (or equiv­a­lent of other gases) to meet our 2030 tar­get set in the Paris Agree­ment. As the PBO points out, this is the equiv­a­lent of tak­ing ev­ery sin­gle car, truck, and ATV in Canada off the road. In short, we are off by a lot. Part of this dis­crep­ancy re­sults from the toll our demo­cratic process has taken on cli­mate change ac­tion. With each change in gov­ern­ment, our cli­mate plan changes. New gov­ern­ments never go back to square one on an is­sue such as uni­ver­sal health care, but on the cli­mate is­sue, it’s de rigueur to re­place the pre­vi­ous plan en­tirely, no mat­ter the mer­its or mo­men­tum of the old. The grave­yard of cli­mate change poli­cies is lit­tered with such ghosts of hopes past such as Jean Chré­tien’s 1995 Na­tional Ac­tion Plan on Cli­mate Change or Stephen Harper’s trag­i­cally ti­tled Turn­ing the Cor­ner Plan. Suf­fice to say, Canada did not turn the cor­ner, while scores of other coun­tries have, in­clud­ing the United States, whose car­bon diox­ide emis­sions have dropped by 13 per­cent over the past decade. “Ev­ery time that you stop this, then there’s a cost,” says Scott Vaughan, who served as en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mis­sioner dur­ing the Harper years. “When you rip it out and say, ‘I’m go­ing to re­design my kitchen, be­cause what I put down I don’t re­ally like, and do it again,’ I think most Cana­dian house­holds will go, ‘Are you

“The au­di­tor gen­eral’s re­ports will never be very pop­u­lar with gov­ern­ment be­cause that’s just the way pol­i­tics is.”

crazy, you haven’t even turned the wa­ter on the taps yet.’” The cur­rent na­tional po­lit­i­cal dis­course on cli­mate change fo­cuses on win-win sce­nar­ios: we can have our econ­omy and our en­vi­ron­ment too. We can build pipe­lines as well as tax car­bon. And that may be. Canada’s GDP long ago de­cou­pled from our car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. We gen­er­ate more econ­omy while pol­lut­ing less than we ever used to. But the re­al­ity is that cli­mate change won’t be win-win for ev­ery­one. The Na­tional Round Ta­ble on the En­vi­ron­ment and the Econ­omy es­ti­mated in 2011 that by 2050 cli­mate change will cost Canada be­tween $21 bil­lion and $43 bil­lion a year. At the up­per end, that’s the equiv­a­lent of just un­der one-third of all the fed­eral per­sonal-in­come tax col­lected in Canada last year. In­sur­ance pay­outs in Canada for ex­treme weather have al­ready sky­rock­eted in re­cent decades, to $1 bil­lion a year, and the fed­eral fund that helps prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries re­cover from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters doled out more money in the six years lead­ing up to 2015 than in the pre­vi­ous thirty-nine fis­cal years com­bined. If the en­vi­ron­ment and the econ­omy go so tightly hand in hand, then what does it say when our en­vi­ron­ment is cost­ing our econ­omy and cit­i­zens so dearly? With two weeks to go, the Of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral in Ot­tawa is som­bre and earnest, with its beige walls and monthly “en­viro tips” that ro­tate on a flat screen by the staff en­try: pick up some lit­ter and re­use your eggs car­tons for craft projects, they sug­gest. Canada sees it­self as a cli­mate-for­ward coun­try — en­vi­ron­men­tally aware, con­scious, and ac­tive. The col­lab­o­ra­tive au­dit will tell us if that’s true and whether our gaze is suf­fi­ciently fo­cused on the not-so- dis­tant and some­what terrifying hori­zon.

On June 16, 2016, ap­prox­i­mately 130 mil­lime­tres of rain fell on Chetwynd, a small town in north­east­ern Bri­tish Columbia. The amount it re­ceived in that one day was more than one-quar­ter of the to­tal rain that falls on the town in a typ­i­cal year. Mary Jane Bar­ton and her hus­band live twenty-seven kilo­me­tres west of Chetwynd in a small ru­ral com­mu­nity called Hasler Flat, nes­tled against the foothills of the Rock­ies. The Bar­tons were lucky. The Pine River rose up gen­tly to flood their prop­erty, sort of like back­wa­ter. But their neigh­bours’ ex­pe­ri­ence was a dif­fer­ent story. A small creek runs through their lot, some­thing you could cross by foot and emerge from with damp shoes. That day, the creek changed be­yond recog­ni­tion. It wasn’t just the vol­ume of wa­ter that was terrifying — with it came dump trucks’ worth of gravel and rocks that hur­tled down with un­stop­pable force. “It came down like a gi­ant snow­plow,” says Bar­ton. At one point, she looked out the win­dow of her up­stairs bed­room to see a neigh­bour’s white camper trailer be­ing car­ried away in the tor­rent. “It looked just like a white Sty­ro­foam cup bob­bing in wa­ter, and away it went,” she says. The down­pour felled power and phone lines, un­der­mined a section of

rail tracks, ex­posed two pipe­lines, and washed out the high­way in both di­rec­tions, strand­ing the Bar­tons and some forty other fam­i­lies in the area for nine days. They had no power, no phones, and no way out, be­cause they were un­able to get past what she calls “the Bowl,” a thirty-me­tre-wide, twenty-five-me­tre­deep hole in the high­way. Four months later, Katie Olthuis, an au­di­tor at the BC Of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral, vis­ited the same stretch of high­way. The flood wa­ters had long re­ceded, but signs of their destruc­tive force re­mained. “You wouldn’t think that wa­ter could take apart metal, but it re­ally looked like it could,” she says, re­call­ing the sight of cul­vert pipes that the wa­ter and de­bris had torn apart. Olthuis had come to Chetwynd to see what adap­ta­tion would mean for the BC Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture, which is re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing and up­grad­ing the prov­ince’s high­ways. Dur­ing the flood, many of the cul­verts that ran un­der the high­way were un­able to divert the mas­sive vol­umes of rain­wa­ter. The re­sult was a gi­ant whirlpool that carved a crater in the road. The BC Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture had re­cently up­dated its stan­dards to ac­com­mo­date spikes in pre­cip­i­ta­tion that are ex­pected to swell wa­ter­ways as a re­sult of cli­mate change. Min­istry work­ers were there to as­sess dam­age, but they were also re­build­ing with a view to cli­mate- change-proof the high­way. The width of cul­verts un­der roads or the amount of rip-rap po­si­tioned to stave off ero­sion — these are the de­tails that make the dif­fer­ence be­tween an in­tact road and a washe­d­out high­way that leaves forty fam­i­lies stranded and re­ly­ing on he­li­copter drops of propane. The ex­am­i­na­tion phase of a per­for­mance au­dit typ­i­cally in­volves grind­ing away on gar­gan­tuan files with au­dit­ing soft­ware, but the BC au­dit team wanted to see cli­mate adap­ta­tion for it­self. “There’s a lot of pub­lic dis­cus­sion around mit­i­ga­tion,” says Carol Bell­ringer, au­di­tor gen­eral of Bri­tish Columbia. “I think there’s less con­ver­sa­tion, and there should be more around what is be­ing done on adap­ta­tion.” BC faces in­creased risk of drought, flood, and for­est fire, and Bell­ringer and her team saw an op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide value to Bri­tish Columbians, more than 65,000 of whom were evac­u­ated last year dur­ing the prov­ince’s worst wild­fire sea­son on record, by mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to gov­ern­ment on how to im­prove its cli­mate re­siliency. By the time Bell­ringer tabled her prov­ince’s cli­mate change au­dit in mid-fe­bru­ary, On­tario, Saskatchew­an, Manitoba, New­found­land and Labrador, Prince Edward Is­land, New Brunswick, the Yukon, the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, and Nova Sco­tia had al­ready tabled their in­di­vid­ual re­ports, with only Al­berta and Nu­navut out­stand­ing. Gelfand had tabled her fed­eral cli­mate change au­dit re­port in late 2017, which, among other rev­e­la­tions, noted that five out of nine­teen fed­eral de­part­ments had not fully as­sessed their cli­mate change risks. Cu­mu­la­tively, the fed­eral, pro­vin­cial, and ter­ri­to­rial au­dits be­gan paint­ing a grim pic­ture of Canada’s cli­mat­e­change pre­pared­ness across the board. How could En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada en­sure con­tin­ued weather fore­casts if it hadn’t as­sessed the risks that cli­mate change poses to its very own weather sta­tions? How could Manitoba’s for­mer ND P gov­ern­ment know in 2009 that it wouldn’t be able to meet the emis­sions tar­gets it set in 2008 but do noth­ing for another six years? And how could the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries’ Depart­ment of In­fra­struc­ture lack a for­mal cli­mateadap­ta­tion plan for pub­lic build­ings that could be struc­turally com­pro­mised from melt­ing per­mafrost? As the list of in­dict­ments rolled in to the en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mis­sioner’s of­fice in Ot­tawa, the team sum­ma­rized and tab­u­lated the ob­ser­va­tions from around the coun­try. Each in­di­vid­ual au­dit was key for the sin­gle sum­mary re­port to show a cross-canada pic­ture. Af­ter all, if the au­di­tors gen­eral couldn’t get on the same page on cli­mate change, what hope did the prov­inces and feds have of co­or­di­nat­ing ef­forts to ac­tu­ally do some­thing about it?

On March 27, Julie Gelfand tabled “Per­spec­tives on Cli­mate Change Ac­tion in Canada: A Col­lab­o­ra­tive Re­port from Au­di­tors Gen­eral,” a his­toric cul­mi­na­tion of two years of au­dit work across thir­teen ju­ris­dic­tions, in Par­lia­ment. What stands out in the fifty-three-page re­port is that ev­ery­one is point­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent tar­get is to re­duce emis­sions by 30 per­cent of its 2005 lev­els by 2030, while sev­eral prov­inces’ cli­mate plans, in­clud­ing that of Al­berta’s ND P gov­ern­ment, fail to name any emis­sion tar­get. Of the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries that have a 2020 tar­get — seven do not — Nova Sco­tia was the only one to al­ready meet its tar­get. Other prov­inces, in­clud­ing On­tario, have seen their emis­sions fall, just not by enough. Many gov­ern­ments, when not on track to meet their next tar­get, sim­ply set a new one, fur­ther into the fu­ture, af­ter they’ll be long gone from power. “We’re in a re­ally weird Cana­dian group­think men­tal­ity that tar­gets don’t mat­ter,” says fed­eral Green Party leader El­iz­a­beth May. “Suc­ces­sive Cana­dian gov­ern­ments have missed their tar­gets, while other coun­tries around the world have hit their tar­gets. Tar­gets do mat­ter.” Just as wor­ry­ing, the re­port re­veals that many gov­ern­ments don’t have the ma­chin­ery in place to mea­sure and re­port on their cli­mate ac­tion. Cli­mate ini­tia­tives run big bills, mo­bi­lize vast re­sources, and af­fect mil­lions of lives. The au­dit iden­ti­fied a con­sis­tent lack of feed­back and re­port­ing mech­a­nisms in place to tell us what we’re get­ting for these in­vest­ments of tax dol­lars. Of all the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, Nova Sco­tia, one of the coun­try’s small­est prov­inces, had one of the most pos­i­tive au­dit re­sults. In his prov­ince’s in­di­vid­ual au­dit, Au­di­tor Gen­eral Michael Pickup made only three rec­om­men­da­tions for cli­mate change man­age­ment, in­clud­ing one proposal that the prov­ince update its more-than-decade-old risk rat­ings, which rank the sever­ity of the risks of cli­mate change. Re­vis­it­ing its as­sess­ment would de­ter­mine whether any risks, such as the threats to dikes or trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, had in­ten­si­fied, and what new mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures are needed. En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada, the depart­ment re­spon­si­ble for fed­eral cli­mate plans, re­sponded over email that they com­mended the au­di­tors for the “se­ri­ous­ness with which they are tak­ing the chal­lenge of cli­mate change” but also that “au­dits are in­her­ently back­ward­look­ing” and this one, they claim, didn’t in­clude the mas­sive na­tion­wide ef­fort cur­rently un­der­way with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s lat­est cli­mate plan, the Pan-cana­dian Frame­work on Clean Growth and Cli­mate Change. It is true that leg­isla­tive au­di­tors often look at what has hap­pened more than what is planned. “The au­di­tor gen­eral’s re­ports will never be very pop­u­lar with gov­ern­ment be­cause it’s just the way pol­i­tics is, and that will not change,” says Jean Charest, for­mer en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter and for­mer Que­bec premier. “But the fact of the mat­ter is the au­di­tors’ re­ports do have an ef­fect, and they be­come the bench­mark and the way by which we mea­sure whether or not we’re ac­com­plish­ing what we said we would ac­com­plish.” Gov­ern­ments across the coun­try now know where they have fallen short, but for Gelfand there has al­ready been avalu­able out­come. With nine prov­inces, the ter­ri­to­ries, and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on board, leg­isla­tive au­di­tors across the coun­try have had cli­mate change top of mind for a year at least, maybe two. Where the in­di­vid­ual au­di­tors saw an ex­er­cise, she saw an op­por­tu­nity to plant the seeds of aware­ness of cli­mate change and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in au­di­tors’ of­fices across the coun­try. With few ex­cep­tions, most au­di­tors make self-ef­fac­ing jokes about how dull their work is, and it’s al­most con­vinc­ing. The truth is that their desk-bound toil, which would strike most as te­dious, is al­most heroic in its un­flag­ging ded­i­ca­tion to im­prove gov­ern­ment ef­fi­cacy on is­sues that un­fold with great ur­gency on the ground. The dikes can be up­graded. Our emis­sions can go down. Storm sew­ers can be re­designed to han­dle more in­tense rain­fall.

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