Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration and Alberta’s regional government have pledged to develop a plan to correct “significant” flaws in the environmental oversight and pollution monitoring program of Canada’s vast oil sands within 90 days. The announcement follows a report from the federal Oil Sands Advisory Panel, which highlighted “significant shortcomings in the monitoring system as a whole” and forced Environment Minister John Baird to acknowledge that the administration has failed to adequately monitor the impact of oil sands exploitation on air, water and land resources.
The oil sands industry plans to expand production to 3.4 million barrels a day by 2020. The proposed expansion of production in Canada is also meeting some opposition in the U.S. as environmental groups lobby to block the expansion of the pipeline that carries Canadian crude oil to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois.
Critics of the oil sands project and expanded production contend that the Canadian government should take a stronger role in protecting the environment under existing legislation, instead of leaving responsibility to regional governments that have thus far failed to adequately protect the environment, according to the report.
Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff gave a speech at the Canadian Club of Ottawa today in which he criticized the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for “giving up on Canada’s place in the world,” and allowing Canada’s international reputation to deteriorate to the point that “Canada is becoming the country that dares not speak its name.” Among other things Mr. Ignatieff claimed that Mr. Harper has ceded Canada’s responsibilities in Afghanistan, let trade with China and India falter and failed to stand up for Canadians abroad.
This week’s speech follows news on September 1 that the Liberals intend to topple the Canadian government, forcing Canada’s second national elections in less than one year. Since 2006, concerns that Canadians are weary of federal elections have allowed the Conservative party to govern without a majority of parliamentary votes. Today’s speech is part of a pre-election strategy for Mr. Ignatieff and a response to critics who claim the Liberal leader has not articulated his vision for the country.