Our good friends at the New Democratic Party of Canada write today to point out a couple of things about the idea that the Environment Commissioner ought to become independent of the Office of the Auditor General and report straight through to Parliament. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has been saying that he would support the idea of an independent Environment Commissioner and, today in Question Period, Liberal whip Karen Redman was asking the government to support such an idea:
“Mr. Speaker, in 1997, the Liberal government created the position of environment commissioner to provide sound, independent advice to Parliament about protecting Canada's environment and working toward sustainable development, but after this past week, it appears that the environment commissioner is not as independent as Parliament had originally thought she would be. Will the Prime Minister support a motion to establish an independent environment commissioner as an officer of Parliament?” – Karen Redman, Hansard, 2 February 2007
But the New Democrats point out — in what’s becoming a refrain repeated in Ottawa nowadays with such frequency that it’s almost become a bit boring — that the Liberals had 13 years to get that done!
Our second task will be to appoint an Environmental Auditor General, reporting directly to Parliament, with powers of investigation similar to the powers of the Auditor General.” – 1993 Liberal Platform, p. 64
For the record, NDP Leader Jack Layton asked the Prime Minister yesterday to support an Environment Commissioner. Here’s that exchange:
Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the dismissal of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development came as an unpleasant surprise. Ms. Gélinas provided a non-partisan voice here on matters of the environment. Her studies were always based on science and fact. And now she is gone.
Will the Prime Minister support a proposal, an amendment to the legislation, proposed by the NDP to ensure that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development will be a senior public servant who answers directly to the House and its members, and to no one else?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, the government regrets Ms. Gélinas' departure. At the same time, legislation exists and the legislation is clear: the position of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is within the Office of the Auditor General, but both report directly to Parliament.
We are certainly willing to study the NDP leader's proposals.