Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231

Vol. 14, No. 3, March 23, 2009
Honoured Reader Edition

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Our feature this issue is the report of the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor-General of Canada. In replacing the previous Commissioner, Johanne Gelinas, with the current Commissioner, Scott Vaughan, Auditor General Sheila Fraser may have intended to have her branch focus more on audit and less on policy analysis. If so, she has probably succeeded, but there are so many problems that can be turned up by an audit that the analysis of whether the policy or program makes any sense at all may not be a worry for a few years.

Some of the items in the Commissioner’s report, which we have chosen this year to summarize at length, should make Canadians absolutely furious at their government: a departments with an agreement with industry to retroactively reduce emissions of air toxics (physically impossible!); mandatory implementation of Environmental Farm Plans for farmers accessing certain funding programs but no verification as to whether the EFPs are actually achieving anything; blatantly not adequately enforcing a regulation to reduce emissions of one carcinogenic substance and another designated toxic substance, and much more. It makes one wish that citizens had the power to prosecute their government officials and the elected cabinet of ministers for negligent dereliction of duty.
We have a letter to the editor clarifying what Canada’s new oil spill response barges might be for; we have a review of Elizabeth May’s new book that is not really For Dummies; and Statistics Canada has a new report on the environmental behaviour of Canadian households. At least one Canadian photovoltaics manufacturer is being hit hard by the recession, and, unlike some parts of the federal government, the Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee is working at measuring and reporting on its sustainability performance - good for them. Our issue concludes, as do most issues of GL, with a strange story about the premier of a new movie called Age of Stupid to which Northern Ireland's Environment Minister was invited. GL hopes that all of Canada’s federal Cabinet will get to see the movie - we will review it as soon as we can get our eyes on a copy.

Next issue we will review some of the rapidly emerging data about PPCPs in your drinking water. If you want to know what that’s all about you’ll have to wait until the next issue. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this one. 


Last week’s Americana 2009 environmental technology conference continued the success of previous years. Business participants and Environment Minister Jim Prentice, who spoke at the opening of the conference, seem to feel that Canada’s environment and clean energy industries will do well despite the economic downturn. To some extent that may be true, especially if some of the infrastructure spending focusses on municipal capital projects that are defined as environmental. But things are not all rosy for the environment industry, as indicated by slight reductions in the number of active booths and trade show participants.

Environmental conferences like Americana used to be major opportunities for dialogue between business and government. This year continued the practice introduced by the Conservative government of having very few federal officials participating either as speakers or as visible participants. There was almost no sharing of what the people whom we pay with our taxes are up to in terms of new environmental policy development. This lack of federal participation appears to come from a widespread view that conferences are some kind of junket for federal officials and that the fewer such people go to conferences the better. This is absolutely wrong and should be fought at every opportunity. Those who develop policy cannot possibly know everything about every aspect of the policies and programs they are developing. If Canada is to have good environmental policy and limited adverse consequences, as the Minister promised, there needs to be dialogue between the governors and the governed.

If Canada’s environment industry is to grow and prosper, employing more Canadians into the bargain, we need to export our technologies and services around the world. The federal government has dramatically cut back on environmental trade development activities and more of the environmental work inside Canada is being done by foreign owned companies. The environment industry is not scared of foreign competition but when the federal government makes statements and implements policies that destroy Canada’s environmental reputation they are costing jobs and losing business opportunities for Canada’s environmental technology and service companies.

Minister Prentice boasted to Americana delegates that "Zenn Motor Company . . is on the verge of releasing a zero-emission electric vehicle that would have a range of 400 kilometres and top out at 125 kilometres an hour." However, this month’s Canadian Business magazine, in a feature article about the Zenn Car which includes an interview with Zenn CEO Ian Clifford, states that "Canada hasn’t exactly rolled out the welcome mat. In fact, Transport Canada has largely regarded the electric car as a safety hazard".

Today many industry sectors are getting help from Ottawa. The environment industry is getting next to nothing but the fallout from Canada’s declining environmental reputation. Minister Prentice needs to develop a strategy for green business and a green economy. Without it our environment industry will soon be entirely in foreign ownership and, if that happens, before long it will not just be the environment industry but the environment itself that is at the whim of decisions made elsewhere.

Colin Isaacs

Notes for an address by the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, to the Americana International Trade Show on March 17, 2009

From Canadian Business magazine, March 30, 2009: Electric cars: The wheel deal?


The current report, from which we are summarizing some of what for us are highlights, is the first that Scott Vaughan, Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, has presented since his appointment in May 2008.

Vaughan's introduction explains the necessity of seeking better environmental performance: "Science indicates that we are not on an environmentally sustainable path."

While science cannot provide all the answers, ignoring the science is not the way forward. In his “The Commissioner's Perspective” he mentions three reports, the 2007 Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). a recent federal report From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate and another important federal report Human Health in a Changing Climate (2008), writing that , "These are not forecasts for a distant future. These are serious problems that governments and the public must face today. As noted in From Impacts to Adaptation, "We have options, but the past is not one of them."

Climate Change - Economic Measures

The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, passed by Parliament in 2007, requires the Minister of the Environment to prepare an annual Climate Change Plan that sets out measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as the expected yearly reductions resulting from each measure as well as results achieved in subsequent reports.

The Commissioner audited two economic measures in Environment Canada's 2007 Climate Change Plan, the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund, and the Public Transit Tax Credit. Environment Canada published the government's first plan under the Act in August 2007 and a second plan in May 2008.

Finance Canada developed a framework in 2005, A Framework for the Evaluation of Environmental Tax Proposals, but cannot provide any data to show that it used the framework to compare the proposed tax measures against the set of criteria that must also guide the evaluation of alternative forms of intervention. It claimed that the information was only available in Cabinet confidential documents.

Public Transit Tax Credit

Environment Canada originally estimated 220,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases reductions each year from 2008 to 2012. at a cost of $635 million.  Finance Canada estimated half that amount and in 2008 Environment Canada changed its estimate to 35,000 tonnes per year. Many factors influence why people take public transit including the price of gasoline so it is impossible to estimate the benefit of the tax credit in GHG reduction. A full evaluation of the Public Transit Tax Credit, as outlined in Budget 2006, is not expected until 2011. Cost of the tax credit for fiscal 2006-7 to 2008-9 is unknown and the government says the 2006-07 data will not be available until 2009.The cost per tonne of greenhouse gas reduction was estimated by Finance Canada to be between $2000 to $3000 per tonne of  greenhouse gases reduced between 2006 and 2010.  However,  because few GHG reductions will be achieved the cost per tonne is expected to be much higher (for comparison, carbon credits that come from other GHG reduction projects are available at around $15 per tonne). Environment Canada could provide no analysis to the audit team on why the tax credit would produce measurable results.

The Commissioner writes, "Trying to manage the environment without a coherent measurement system is like trying to guide Canada's economy in the absence of indicators like the gross domestic product, inflation, interest rates, and unemployment data."

GL often rants about the dismal state of environmental data in Canada but the Commissioner’s report emphasizes how much the federal government has let slide the very serious need for environmental data.

Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund

The core element of the government's climate change plan was The Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund with $1.519 billion transfer to provinces and territories. The flawed analysis used by Environment Canada estimated that 16 million tonnes of GHG reduction per year would result. But because the programme had no conditions, Environment Canada has no "real, measurable, and verifiable results."

Estimates of greenhouse gas emission reductions under the Trust Fund are flawed and unverifiable. In calculating Canada's future emissions, the government itself excluded the Trust Fund, equating the results zero emissions reduction, but the Trust Fund accounted for 80% of expected emission reductions in the government's 2008 Plan for the first year and 26% of all quantified measures in the period 2008-2012 so if the results really are near zero, GL projects that there is no hope of achieving even this government’s modest targets.

Nevertheless, Environment Canada made a claim of expected results in 2007 and another in 2008, knowing that the nature of the Trust Fund makes it very unlikely that the Department can report real, measurable, and verifiable results. When GL's editor presents to parliamentary committees, it is under oath. GL notes that the Commissioner does not just say that the government does not know what results are but that the federal government is reporting results to Parliament without actually knowing that they have been achieved. So how come federal officials and Ministers of the Crown can present information which they can reasonably be expected to know is false or at best unfounded to Parliament and escape charges of "Contempt of Parliament"?

Chemicals Management
A regulation on the substance Acrylonitrile, declared toxic in 2005 and used to manufacture synthetic rubber, structural foam, and other products, was supposed to lead to the development of a pollution prevention plan by the company making the most of the product in Canada. The company reported it had complied but Environment Canada didn't check and has done little to enforce the regulations despite rising air emissions of this substance from 2003 to 2006. Although measures have been taken to reduce emissions from 2006 to 2007, total emissions are still three times what they were in 2000.

One audit focused on three fuel regulations under the responsibility of Environment Canada as an indicator of government management of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). The regulations were:
Instead of finding that Environment Canada had procedures in place to monitor compliance with the regulations as well as progress reports, the audit found Environment Canada reports a 99% compliance with the two regulations on benzene and sulphur but the department does not actually know how effective its enforcement is. The department has too narrow a view of the sectors reporting, inspecting refineries, blending facilities and importers but not service stations and fuel wholesalers. The department does not know whether the frequency and extent of the inspections it does are sufficient to ensure compliance. Industry reports on compliance should be audited, for example, in 2006 there was only one report that benzene limits had been exceeded. Without sufficient information, the department cannot make reliable statements on compliance rates. Benzene, a component of gasoline and known to cause cancers such as leukemia, was to be controlled by regulations passed in 2001 but seven years later, Environment Canada has done little to ensure that retailers and wholesalers comply with the regulations.

According to Environment Canada, pumping of gasoline into cars results in about 6 percent of the daily benzene intake by adult Canadians who are not regularly exposed to cigarette smoke. There has been almost no enforcement of the Flow Rate Regulations to date because Environment Canada does not consider it a priority.

Severe Weather Warnings

Environment Canada issued 10,000 warnings of severe weather. Alerts on severe weather will be increasingly important as climate change will bring more frequent extreme weather events such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, freezing rain, heavy snowfalls. However, the Meteorological Service has no way to verify how accurate its warnings are. The Commissioner recommends a national system which provides this verification, assesses how well Canadians understand the warnings and develops improvements in future warnings. The Department was supposed to decommission some of the weather stations and reallocate costs to update its weather monitoring infrastructure but there was local outcry so few monitoring stations were closed.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Canada’s agri-food sector accounts for eight percent of the gross domestic product, generating $130 billion in sales annually with $31 billion of that in exports. The sector employs one in eight Canadians but changes to agriculture have increasingly caused harm to the natural environment.

            The National Land and Water Information Service

The National Land and Water Information Service (NLWIS) is a major Crown program with the goal to provide " integrated, up-to-date, and consistent land use, soil, water, climate, and biodiversity resource information to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and land-use managers to enable them to make environmentally responsible land-use decisions". This program is critical to good decision making but was said to be poorly managed. Its estimated cost was to be $100 million over five and a half years. By March 2008, $72 million had been spent although major phases of the project were delayed. The Department only measures expenditures rather than what was delivered for the resources used.

            The APF Environment Chapter

Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada gets credit for recognizing that sustainability of the agricultural sector is linked to the environment and for making environment one of the key elements of the Agricultural Policy Framework. The Environment Chapter of the APF had funding of $600 million over five years. The APF, which avoid regulations in favour of incentives and information to reduce the environment risk of agriculture, was to end March 31, 2008 to be replaced by a new framework called Growing Forward. The latter is still under development and the APF was extended for a year.

            National Agri-Environmental Health Analysis and Reporting Program

Six indicators were set under the NAHARP to evaluate the effectiveness of the AFP such as the percentage of farmland with various levels of residual nitrogen in the soil. Surplus nitrogen in the soil, such as from the use of fertilizer, poses a risk to the environment. The agreement between the federal and provincial/territorial government implementing the AFP sets targets for each of the six indicators, for example 8 percent reduction in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, to be achieved by March 31, 2008. The Commissioner says that this agreement "to monitor and report on agri-environmental progress is a significant accomplishment." But there are some concerns, among them:
            Environmental Farm Planning

Among the programs under the APF was the $70 million Environmental Farm Planning. Environmental Farm Plans are voluntary and confidential but producers who applied for funding under the National Farm Stewardship ($176 million) and the Greencover Canada ($58) programs had to complete an EFP. These programs were delivered through payment to a number of different external agents but the data returned was so incomplete that the Department added a disclaimer to internal reports warning that the data was not fit to be used, a disclaimer that will be removed if and when the data quality problems are resolved.

The Commissioner said that there was inadequate data to link action under the program at the farm level to positive environmental change. About 57,000 EFPs were completed and reviewed as of March 2008. This represents about 30% of the total farms (over 200,000) and close to the target set for the program at 60,445 EFPs. The Department cannot access the EFPs as the producers can keep the information secret in case there is any liability to them, for example if they identify a risk and then the farm hasn't acted on it. So when the farm gets funding for an EFP, there is no way to measure whether one of the higher risk priority is being addressed in the EFP or whether on-farm environmental impacts are being reduced. Statistics Canada has methodology for collecting statistics while maintaining confidentiality and it is recommended that the Department find a way to gain a better understanding of the role of the farm plans in reducing environmental risks.

Voluntary Agreements for Air Emissions

The audit evaluated three different voluntary agreements with industry sectors in relation to air emissions. The Government of Canada is represented by a number of different departments depending on the agreement such as Environment Canada, Transport Canada, Health Canada and Industry Canada. Provincial/territorial governments may also sign on. These agreements met many of the requirements of Environment Canada's Policy Framework for Environmental Performance Agreements which sets out measuring, reporting and verifying results. However, at the end of the project, Environment Canada didn’t evaluate the results and didn’t verify the data provided by the private sector although an auditor is now being sought. GL notes that although environmentalists often criticize voluntary agreements as worse than regulations, the Commissioner evaluated four federal tools for reducing air emissions, regulations, economic measures, pollution prevention plans, and voluntary agreements with the private sector and concluded overall that "The government is not ensuring that tools to limit harmful emissions are working" so voluntary instruments were at least no worse than the other tools.

Railway Association of Canada

The memorandum of understanding signed in 2007 has the intent to reduce emissions of criteria air contaminants and greenhouse gases from the operation of railway locomotives by Canadian railway companies. Regulations to implement the Railway Safety Act are not in effect until 2011. Environment Canada and Transport Canada agreed to help the Association's members share knowledge and identify greenhouse gas emission reduction methods. In May 2008 the two departments held the Rail Conference in Toronto with sessions on air emissions, emissions trading, innovations and technology. The 2006 report from the Association, which provides base data on which future reductions are to be made, was not audited.*

Canadian Chemical Producers' Association

The agreement was planned to reduce releases to air of volatile organic compounds from the chemicals sector by 25 percent between 1997 and 2002. However the agreement did not become effective until 2001, to expire 2005, but the 2002 target remained. In other words, Environment Canada signed on to retroactively reduce emissions, something that is impossible unless the industry had already implemented the emissions reductions before the agreement was signed. The target was reported as met by the CCPA but no independent audit was ever undertaken to verify the industry report and Environment Canada never did a documented assessment of the reports, processes and supporting documentation as required nor a formal evaluation of the agreement after it ended.

Air Transport Association of Canada

The 2005 memorandum of understanding aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from aviation in Canada. However, the baseline is not clearly defined and Transport Canada has no documentation that the first report by the association in 2006 was audited to ensure the methodology and baseline data are accurate and reasonable.

Federal Sustainable Development Strategies

The federal Sustainable Development Strategies are supposed to ensure that each department integrates environment into its operations and planning. In all 32 departments and agencies prepare SD strategies. The Commissioner reviewed eleven and found eight that "had structures and processes in place to effectively plan, implement, and monitor the commitment we had selected for audit, and could demonstrate some achieved results:"
The Canada Public Service Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Correctional Service Canada couldn't provide evidence that they had achieved expected results or had effectively planned, monitored, and tracked progress on the commitment.

However, the report also mentioned that the strategies contained goals that aren't challenging enough and targets that were missed. The Commissioner states that the government has no way of knowing whether the strategies are contributing to sustainable development. The Commissioner concludes that the approach is not working.

In future audits, the Commissioner will also have the role of evaluating the new Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. Federal goals and targets are to be in place by 2010 as required under the Federal Sustainable Development Act passed by Parliament in June 2008. Environment Canada has the role of helping the other departments meet the requirements of this act.

Office of the Auditor General of Canada. 2008 December Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. February 5, 2009.


The Canadian Chemical Producers' Association issued a press release which implies that the Environment Commissioner's Report evaluates their Memorandum of Understanding with Canada, Ontario and Alberta as recognizing the value of Responsible Care(TM), a chemical industry program. (see above Report of the Commissioner of the Env. & SD). The CCPA press release discussed some of the actions it took as an industry to verify the data including:
GL thinks that the Commissioner was positive about that the process itself met government guidelines for such voluntary agreements but reserved judgement on the results - very important results of reducing toxic air emissions. GL's search of the Commissioner's report yielded no results for the term Responsible Care. or any comment on the value of that industry program. The industry and Environment Canada says the results were achieved but the Commissioner is not willing to accept data without verification which an audit by the government could provide. 

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


            Subject: The budget issue GL V14 N2

First time I've seen your newsletter. Interesting read. Two things about the budget coverage though:

Those 'barges' are probably pre-loaded with oil-spill response equipment (booms, oil-socks, dispersant chemicals and whatnot). The US Coast Guard maintains depots with these around the coast and I've heard from contacts there that Canada's equivalent stock was, ahem, not so ship-shape. A better response of course would be to stop driving tankers of oil up and down the west coast, but as long as we do, the barges are a good precaution.

Upgrading our main electricity distribution backbone, smart or dumb, is also a good green idea in the long haul. The only way that renewable sources like the wind, sun and tides will be able to shoulder a serious wedge of our future energy needs is if we can find a way to match their production to our consumption. This is more easily said than done. But one part of the solution is an integrated continental high-capacity power grid capable of moving a pile of solar juice from sunny Vegas to darkening NYC in time to microwave 80 million suppers. Or if you like.. to move west coast wind power from offshore Vancouver Island to downtown Toronto.

As for the rest of the bobbing and weaving, misdirection and shell- game accounting you identified in the federal budget, well done and thank you! (As a working daily news reporter I always delighted in uncovering, during a three-hour budget lockup, those turd nuggets the government had spent nine months or so burying and disguising!)


Chris Wood*

*Chris Wood lives in Duncan BC and his book Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America, published by Raincoast Books was finalist although not the winner for the non-fiction Shaughnessy Cohen Prize, announced on February 7, 2009. He was awarded $3,500 as a finalist. The jury consisted of Toronto Star national affairs writer and author Chantal Hébert, author and journalist William Johnson, and Globe and Mail deputy managing editor David Walmsley. The prize, described as “Canada's most prestigious literary award for political writing”, is sponsored by CTVglobemedia and supported by the Politics and the Pen gala dinner and receptions sponsored by Microsoft and MTSAllstream Inc.

Writers' Trust Creates a Perfect Evening for James Orbinski: Shaughnessy Cohen Prize Presented to Author of An Imperfect Offering. Ottawa, Ontario: March 04, 2009. 


Elizabeth May, currently Leader of the Green Party of Canada, and Dalhousie University student Zoe Caron have written a book Global Warming for Dummies. Like all the For Dummies books it is a friendly, non-condescending book which delves onto major elements of the topic without pretending to be the last word on the subject. It presents the issue of climate change from understanding what it is, tracking the causes, risks of its effects, political progress and suggestions for solutions. Scientists Ian Burton, Jim Bruce and Gordon McBean of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change get a special thanks for ensuring the accuracy of the book. The final chapter lists ten things you can do to slow global warming, ten inspiring leaders, ten myths and ten online global warming resources. The occasional cartoon lightens things up. GL said of another book in this series Green Living for Dummies that it was "one of the better books in a genre of what you can do to help the environment" and thinks that same praise applies to this one on climate change. Whereas Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth had to simplify a lot to get the content into a presentation/movie resulting in some oddities like graphs without proper labelling, this Global Warming For Dummies does not have to take those more extreme shortcuts and ends up being inspirational as well.

The book must be seen as a threat by the climate sceptics as there are a number of blogs with some over-the-top language for what is basically a very low-key guide to the topic. They play on words on the title: Global Warming for Idiots. Gullible is a word which seems to be a favourite of the climate deniers so there is Global Warming for the Gullible. One calls the two authors warmist fanatics although GL found the book all fairly straight-forward with hardly a sign of environmentalist rhetoric except perhaps for a dig at big box stores located where people have to drive and selling lots of stuff shipped from far away. Some obviously haven't read the book because the blog says that the authors suggest only two solutions: hop on a bike or painting the roof white while in reality, the book has many suggestions including corporate success stories. The climate confused would do well to read this book.

May is doing a book tour and was in Hamilton (GL's nearest city), Ontario on March 16th speaking to about 100 people. She generally spoke about the book but also suggested that cutbacks in the media are reducing both the quality and quantity of well-informed reporting about climate change. The media is not highlighting the Harper government's lack of commitment to dealing with issue. She urged attendees to petition the government to commit to supporting a new crucial global climate agreement at the United Nations meeting to be held in Copenhagen in December. GL tends to agree with her observation that many journalists writing about climate change (and other more technical environmental issues) need more training to increase their knowledge and ability to report accurately.


Zoe Caron was a student at Dalhousie University, and is founding member of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, on the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club of Canada and was featured as one of the "Next Generation" in Vanity Fair's 2007 Green Issue. Zoe Caron was on a panel at the Atlantic Climate Change Conference 2009 speaking on smaller carbon footprint information for potential infrastructure projects. The conference held March 10-11 in Halifax was organized by the Environmental Services Association of Nova Scotia.

May is well known for a long history in the environmental movement recognized by the United Nations in 1990 with the Global 500 Role of Honour for Environmental Achievement and as one of the leading women in the environment on International Women's Day in 2006. She was Senior Policy Advisor to the federal Minister of Environment during important negotiations such as the Montreal Protocol, was board member for the International Institute for Sustainable Development for nine years and Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada of Canada for seventeen years. She has been awarded the Order of Canada at the Officer Level. In 2006, she became Leader of the Green Party but failed to win a seat against Conservative Peter MacKay in Nova Scotia. She is a lawyer and has authored 5 or 6 other books on the environment.

May, Elizabeth and Zoe Caron. Global Warming for Dummies. Mississauga, Ontario: John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd. 2009. ISBN: 978-0-470-84098-6 Paperback 352 pages November 2008.

Cutbacks harming climate message: Democracy needs vibrant media: May. Hamilton Spectator. March 16, 2009. pA2 see Green Party web site

Environmental Services Association of Nova Scotia ESANS. Atlantic Climate Change Conference 2009. Agenda including Zoe Caron  Proceedings have also been generously posted:

All Day 1 Presentations (18MB .zip)
All Day 2 Presentations (8MB .zip)
Audio files will also be posted as well as individual presentations. For environmental businesses, the web site has lots of information updated regularly useful even if your business is not located in Nova Scotia

Statistics Canada released its newest Households and the Environment Survey for 2007 on February 10. The report gives a tantalizing view of Canadian household behaviour on selected factors. GL is always grateful for environmental data. More is needed to connect what seems to be improved household behaviours to positive impacts on the environment, for example, comparisons of household energy and water use changes since the last report to see if there have been any significant improvement.


More households in Canada (42%) have programmable thermostats, a slight increase compared to the 40% since 2006. Around 84% of those households with one of these thermostats even programmed it and 57% of those say the temperature is lowered  in the winter when they are asleep. About 84% of Canadians reported they had at least one type of energy-saving light bulbs.(compact fluorescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes or halogen lights) Both of these are under the theme energy use and conservation but neither figure helps one draw any conclusions on how much energy is being saved. For example, a household which turns down the temperature one or two degrees at night is helping to conserve energy compared to what it would been using but another household may turn down the temperature 6 or 9 degrees making much more significant reductions. Of course, those homes keeping the temperature low all day and night in the winter may be doing even more to save energy even if they don't turn down the temperature at all in the winter.

The report also discusses how households in different provinces differ. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador were least likely to report they uses at least one energy saving light bulb (72% compared to 84% for all Canadians). Environmentally beneficial behaviour may be offset by other actions taken, for example, almost a quarter of households turn their air conditioners on or up during an air pollution advisory. The questionnaire used for the survey asks a lot of interesting questions not summarized in the report such as what temperature they normally keep their house.


Under the theme of water use and conservation, the questions related to how many households had at least
GL wonders how many of these responses to the survey questions are skewed because Canadians want to see themselves as environmentally friendly even if they are not. Without numbers of changes in water use, we don't know have much progress if any, Canadians are making in reducing their water use.

About 13% of households surveyed said they have non-municipal water supply and a third of these households said the water had been tested by a lab in the last twelve months.

Of all Canadian households, 30% said their primary drinking water was bottled water (bottled water includes water in a water cooler, tank or other dispenser.) While 58% relied mainly on tap water, 54% of households treated it before consumption and many used filters and purifiers. Reasons households gave for treating tap water included:
Eleven percent of households consuming tap water or tap and bottled water as their primary drinking water said they had to boil water in the last 12 months to make it safe to drink. The number ranged as high as 21% in British Columbia (which experienced mud slides and extreme weather in later 2006) and Newfoundland and Labrador.


Some of the other data includes:
Statistics Canada. Households and the Environment 2007 Catalogue no. 11-526-X Households and the Environment 2007.


The economic downturn is hitting some of Canada's new energy technology companies hard. For example, Day4(R)Energy (Burnaby, British Columbia) has won an impressive number of awards such as two categories in the 2008 BC Awards as Exporter of the Year as well as Advancing Technologies. It has announced the layoff of up to half of its employees in order to streamline its costs while supply outstrips demand. Falling prices for photovoltaics have resulted in losses in the last half of 2008 which eroded the profits made in the first half for the company which but may serve to encourage more development of PV markets as prices become more competitive with conventional electricity installations.

Day4 Energy, founded in 2001 is now publically traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange after issuing a $100 million IPO in December 6, 2007. The company says its core product/technology is " patented photovoltaic (PV) modules for solar power generation. Our patented Day4 Electrode and proprietary method of interconnecting solar cells produces PV panels of high power density, increased lifetime and uncompromised aesthetic appearance." The technology applies to residential, commercial and utility scale installations. Germany has been a good market.

Among the management team is Leonid Rubin, VP & CTO and George Rubin, President. John MacDonald, CEO and Chair has a long record of science and technology as well as business experience. He was professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of British Columbia (UBC). He founded and was CEO and Chair of MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates Ltd., a aerospace and information technology firm. He also served as a member of the Science Council of Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, and the British Columbia Premier's Advisory Council on Science and Technology. Currently he is on Canadian Department of National Defence Science Advisory Board and the Task 8 of the Photovoltaic Power Systems Program of the International Energy Agency, an international team studying the feasibility of large-scale photovoltaic power systems.

GL notes that if the greening of America continues as promised during the US election by Barack Obama, the demand of alternative energy technology may increase demand for the products of these type of companies, even those in Canada as well as those in the US.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) made sustainability commitments and published its third annual Vancouver 2010 Sustainability Report in January on its performance between August 1, 2007 and July 31, 2008. VANOC is developing environmental management plans for operational venues, working on energy and water conservation and tracking the carbon dioxide emissions from Games-based activities. Fifty per cent of spending by VANOC went to local suppliers in Vancouver and the Sea to Sky corridor, while a further 43 per cent went to companies in British Columbia and the rest of Canada. Over $8.8 million in contracts went to Aboriginal businesses. VANOC continued to monitor and audit its licensees and their supply chains to ensure they complied with relevant legal requirements, respected the rights of workers and protected the environment.

From March 29-31, VANOC with the International Olympic Committee IOC and the United Nations Environment Program UNEP is hosting the 8th World Conference on Sport and the Environment. As well as a program on "green games" as part the conference a tour of the 2010 Olympics site will provide information on environmental features of buildings, site selection to avoid disturbing old growth forests and wetlands, reuse of wood waste and composting to grow native wild flowers to reduce erosion, and wastewater treatment plant using leading technology (tertiary membrane filtration and ultraviolet disinfection).

UNEP released a report in February rating highly the greening of the Olympics in Beijing so Vancouver will have a high standard to meet as China, a developing country, did so relatively well despite the gaps, for example, in its procurement process. The Chinese organizing committee failed to specify mandatory material specifications such as timber.

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Procurement for the Games are available by registering through  the 2010 Commerce Centre. Companies must register and then they receive notification of bid opportunities by email but are encouraged to check the VANOC website and BC Bid anyway. VANOC does not accept personal presentations or unsolicited proposals . Very specific rules apply to use of logos and any claims of association with the Olympics, "Interested bidders are advised that successful contractors, consultants and service providers will not have any right to advertise, promote or publicly discuss their relationship with VANOC or the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and must agree as part of their bid not to create any unauthorized association(s) with the Olympic brand (including but not limited to any emblem, symbol, property, terminology or imagery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games or the Olympic Movement) at any time. Rights of that nature are reserved exclusively for VANOC's official sponsors and suppliers."

A list of bids and the companies they have been awarded back to 2005 are also made public.

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A new film called the Age of Stupid directed by Franny Armstrong, is opening this week in Ireland and Britain. It is set in 2055, a bad future looking back to 2008 and questioning why so little was done to deal with climate change. Franny Armstrong also made McLibel a documentary about McDonald's lawsuit against two activists.*

Sammy Wilson, Northern Ireland's Environment Minister, will not be going to the special screening organized by Friends of the Earth Northern Island. In February, Wilson banned an ad distributed by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. The ad, themed Act on CO2, urged people to save energy to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Wilson said he didn't "believe" that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions were the main cause of climate change and that the ad was propaganda and contrary to his personal views. However, his party, the Democratic Unionist Party has a policy to reduce the impact of human contribution to climate change, according to First Minister Peter Robinson.

Critics are calling for Wilson’s resignation as (shockingly) they expect an Environment Minister to actually be committed to protecting the environment based on basic evidence supplied by science. GL does not see science directing politics but science should certainly inform policies. GL notes Canada has had a series of Environment Ministers which have not "believed" in human-caused climate change and a Prime Minister who, at least until recently did not "believe" either.

* MCLIBEL - THE MOVIE Gallon Environment Letter. Vol. 10, No. 11 June 20, 2005

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