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This article was published 28/3/2018 (1121 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Manitoba is still lacking a central policy to assess how climate change will impact the province’s roads, power supply and agriculture, the province’s auditor general said Tuesday, four months after he flagged the problem.
"In Manitoba, it’s not that good," Norm Ricard said, as his colleagues at the federal, provincial and territorial levels released a historic report comparing climate-change plans.
The report found in almost every jurisdiction, government departments have "high-level goals, with little guidance on how to implement actions," and "most governments in Canada were not on track to meet their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and were not ready for the impacts of a changing climate."
The national report pulled from recent audits taken at various times. For Manitoba, that report came out last fall, and assessed spring 2010 to mid-2017. Ricard’s provincial report came a year after the Pallister government was elected, but before it unveiled its climate and green plan last October.
That report found both NDP and Tory governments had failed to set emission targets for 2020 or 2030, and hadn’t even done risk assessments needed to come up with a climate-change adaptation plan.
Federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand said the Manitoba audit found a previous NDP plan to reduce emissions from agriculture and waste was among the most difficult to assess. "They had no details: who was going to do what, when; how much was it going to cost."
Ricard said he will audit the province’s plan, and told the Free Press he’s considering bumping up his probe, which is currently planned for September 2019 but may take place a year earlier.
He said it’s clear even today that the province still has no central co-ordination among departments over how to assess potential impacts of climate change.
That means "an ad-hoc process" where departments are at different stages of analyzing risks and preventing floods, storms and droughts, but no one’s prioritizing the biggest risks to Manitobans or checking whether departments might be unintentionally contradicting each other.
"There needs to be some leadership to make sure it’s done consistently," Richard said. "I know it’s not been done."
The issue has come up across the country, but "it’s probably worse in Manitoba," Ricard said. "They really have not done much."
A spokeswoman for Manitoba Environment Minister Rochelle Squires said recent legislation will co-ordinate carbon reduction, but could not immediately elaborate when asked Tuesday what measures would be in place to assess risks caused by climate change.
"The previous government indeed lacked co-ordination in addressing climate change risks. Our government is taking action," Tamara King wrote.
"Less than two weeks ago, on March 15, we introduced our Climate and Green Plan Implementation Act bill, which includes a Low Carbon Government Office to help co-ordinate government’s carbon-reduction efforts."
Meanwhile, Neepawa-area Tory MP Robert Sopuck is raising alarms over the Liberals’ evasiveness around how much their carbon tax is expected to cut emissions.
Manitoba’s flat, $25-per-tonne carbon levy falls short of an escalating federal plan, which requires all provinces to charge $50 by 2022.
Sopuck pressed federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna last Thursday on how many tonnes the levy will cut, which she did not answer in her 52-second response. The Conservative party has since posted a short video of that exchange on Twitter.
Testifying at a committee Tuesday, Gelfand told Sopuck multiple provinces don’t know how many tonnes of carbon their plans will cut, and she might probe Ottawa’s lack of a clear answer.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May said the Liberals will have difficulty getting Canadians on board with carbon taxes if they don’t explain their projected impact.
"You should be able to track: this policy instrument will have this impact in reducing emissions and will have this cost, and this benefit," she said. "I have yet to see any transparency around the breakdown."
May said a "patchwork" of provincial plans need tighter co-ordination, while the federal government could step up incentives, such as rebates on fuel-efficient cars and east-west power grid connections that could see Manitoba’s hydro cut down coal use elsewhere in the Prairies.
"We need to get our act together on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while we still have a hope of ensuring our kids have a liveable world. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the actions are still mediocre."