Thursday, July 08, 2010

Environment Committee scuttles its own tarsands report

After 18 months of deliberation and listening to expert testimony, the Standing Committee on Environment announced it will scuttle its own investigation of water pollution from the tar sands :

It was agreed, — That the Committee cease its study of the oil sands and Canada's water resources.

It was agreed, — That all circulated copies of the confidential draft report be returned to the Clerk of the Committee and destroyed (paper and electronic version).

It was agreed, — That any member of the Environment Committee be authorized to consult the one original copy of the draft report kept in the Committee Clerk's office.

They can look at it ; you can't.

The last seven committee sessions on the tar sands have been locked to the public.

At the last public session back in March, the committee heard testimony from a scientist who had conducted the first independent research done since 1983 on airborne tar sands contaminants found in the snow pack along the Athabasca River.
Dr. David Schindler from the University of Alberta told the committee that at the 31 locations he had tested :
"Mercury emitted from these plants has increased three-fold in seven years, lead has increased four-fold in six years, and arsenic three-fold in six years as well."
Further, he said that although Environment Canada tests at only one location on the Athabasca, it has come up with the same numbers, as have the oil companies in their own research.
Schindler contends the oil companies' reports on contaminants are duly submitted to Environment Canada but he believes EC is being muzzled and prevented from making the findings public, and the oil companies of course are not obliged to do so on their own.

And that, my friends, was the last public session of the Environment Committee before it went in camera for the next six sessions and decided against making a report to the House, and to us.

Bad enough, if Schindler is correct, that Environment Canada should be prevented from making its findings public on water pollution from the tar sands; now the Environment Committee won't be either. On the up side, Lib MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who spearheaded the investigation, and NDP environment critic Linda Duncan will be producing their own reports.

What an appalling waste of both resources and public trust.

For an idea of where to lay the blame for this debacle, consider that at that last session, Con MP Jeff Watson blew his allotted time for questioning Schindler pointing out that Iggy supports the tar sands and the Bloc leader has personal investments in it. As EFL points out, at least one opposition MP must have voted with the Cons or abstained to terminate this report. So who was it?

Environment Committee :
Chair : James Bezan, Con .............. David McGuinty, Lib
Scott Armstrong, Con..................... Francis Scarpaleggia, Lib
Mark Warawa, Con ....................... Justin Trudeau, Lib
Blaine Calkins, Con ....................... Bernard Bigras, Bloc
Jeff Watson, Con ........................... Christian Ouellet, Bloc
Stephen Woodworth, Con .............. Linda Duncan, NDP


PeterC said...

Now would be a great time for a whistle blower!


Boris said...

That'll definitely impress the people here:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that a committee comprised of four parties could not agree on a wording of the report that would satisfy the Cons desire to protect the oilsands from scrutiny, but the research presented to it should be made public anyway. And besides, I paid for it.

BTW, Eugene Forsey Liberal at your link is blaming Linda Duncan for it. lol


Alison said...

Ian : I think EFL perhaps misread the Sun article, which states Duncan was on the committtee, not that she voted against the report.

Boris' link : Study says smells sickening people come from oilpatch, but no source.

PeterC : Indeed but committee members are barred from doing.

chris said...

And it barely makes the news.
I have to go and buy a new pitchfork. I've filed the tines right off the old one.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Excellent post - only just became aware of it thru thwap.

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