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From bad to worse
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From Bad to Worse
Taking a closer look at Canada's
environmental record


BY GARTH SIMMONDS


sunil angrish

It was almost 15 years ago when Lucien Bouchard, then Canada’s Environment Minister, announced that by the year 2000 Canada would be “the industrialized world’s most environmentally-friendly country”. His tenure would last only 16 months, but his bold prediction would linger over Canadians a decade and a half later.

A 2006 study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD) concludes that Canada has one of the worst environmental records in the industrialized world. Now, take a second to think about the luscious landscapes and vast waters that Canada boasts and the fact that more than 4,400 non-profit and voluntary environmental organizations function in Canada according to a 2003 survey. So how disappointing is it to learn that we rank 28th out of 30 nations in environmental performance?


sunil angrish
Canada’s poor results shocked even study research director Dr. Thomas Gunton, director of resource and environmental planning at Simon Fraser University. “Canada has among the strongest environmental values of any OECD country and a strong attachment to nature,” Dr. Gunton says.  “Therefore, it is surprising that Canada ranks near the bottom in environmental performance.”

Despite Canada’s being a major player in the industrialized world, countries such as Switzerland, Mexico and Turkey ranked at the top of the environmental list, while Canada is second to the  United States near the bottom at 28. Critics say if Canada wants to be recognized as a world leader economically and environmentally then it must lead by example and that Canada’s record is a far cry from what Canadians truly value.

According to a study conducted by Canadian research firm Environics International, nine out of ten Canadians feel either a great deal of concern or a fair amount of concern about the state of the environment.  The study also concludes that nine out of 10 Canadians rate the environment as one of their top concerns.  So, given the fact that Canadians seem to be among the most environmentally conscientious people in the world, there is one obvious question:

Are Canadians walking the walk of environmental responsibility or are they just talking the talk? The OECD summary appears to answer that question.

It was back in 1960 when Canada, along with 19 other countries, signed the convention founding the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, with each member pledging its dedication to the organization’s fundamental aims.

In the agreement Canada vowed to “promote the efficient use of their economic resources and to achieve the highest sustainable economic growth and employment.” Forty years later, the OECD appears to document Canada’s progress, or lack thereof, towards sustainability over a span of two decades. The study looked at 25 environmental indicators in 10 categories – air, water, energy, biodiversity, waste, climate change, ozone depletion, agriculture, transportation and miscellaneous. The best Canada ranked was seventh in the number of species at risk of becoming extinct.

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