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PACC Committee Report

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HOUSE OF COMMONS
OTTAWA, CANADA
K1A 0A6





INTRODUCTION

OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

CONCLUSION


Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e), the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has the honour to present its

TWENTY-THIRD REPORT

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has considered Chapter 7 of the April 2003 Report of the Auditor General of Canada (National Defence — Environmental Stewardship of Military Training and Test Areas) and the Committee has agreed to report the following:

INTRODUCTION

The Department of National Defence has about 18,000 square kilometres of lands that have been reserved for training military personnel, live-fire testing and other activities. While it is recognized that these activities may damage the environment, it is also understood that the military must continue its training. Nevertheless, National Defence must take steps to mitigate environmental damage and to manage the land so that training activities can continue. National Defence is committed to practising sustainable development[1] and protecting the environment as it carries out its activities.

Like all government departments, National Defence must comply with federal environmental protection legislation ― for example, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999). The federal Code of Environmental Stewardship (1992) requires departments to consider the environmental effects of their operations; to meet or exceed the letter and the spirit of all federal environmental laws; and to acquire, use, and dispose of lands in a manner that protects ecologically significant areas. The Treasury Board Secretariat’s Environmental Guide for Federal Real Property Managers states that it is government policy to acquire, use, and dispose of real property in a manner consistent with the principle of sustainable development. National Defence must therefore adhere to the principle of sustainable development as it conducts its activities on land used for training and testing.

Moreover, National Defence’s own Environmental Protection and Stewardship Policy calls for the protection of “assets held in trust.” The policy states that the Department will demonstrate respect for the environment in all its activities by implementing a sustainable development strategy, conducting environmental assessments, and exercising due diligence. The policy requires individuals to exercise due diligence by knowing and obeying federal environmental laws and regulations, exercising caution, preparing for risks that a thoughtful and reasonable person would foresee, and responding to risks and incidents as soon as practicable.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada examined how the Department of National Defence demonstrated environmental stewardship of its major land training areas and whether it was integrating environmental considerations into military training activities to achieve sustainable development. The audit found instances of non-compliance with environmental laws. Several examples of non-compliance with the Fisheries Act and one case of non-compliance with the Forestry Act were noted in the audit, and concerns were raised about DND’s compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Given the length of time it takes to address environmental issues, the Office believes these incidents point to ongoing problems. DND itself concluded that insufficient attention was being devoted to environmental concerns.

In 1996, DND developed its Manœuvre Area Planning System (MAPS) to determine the environmental impacts of military training activities on DND lands and develop plans to manage environmental concerns. It was noted in the audit that the MAPS protocol had been only partially implemented. Environmentally sensitive areas have been identified but mitigation, restoration, monitoring and follow-up plans were not completed as per the requirements of the MAPS protocol. Likewise, DND has been slow in dealing with lands potentially contaminated by unexploded ordnance, particularly in identifying sites, determining priorities and costs, and tracking progress.

As a result of the audit observations, the Committee decided to hold a meeting on 26 May 2003 to consider the evidence and hear witnesses’ testimony on DND’s environmental stewardship. Representing the Office of the Auditor General of Canada were Mr. Hugh McRoberts (Assistant Auditor General), Mrs. Wendy Loschiuk (Principal) and Mrs. Anne-Marie Smith (Principal). Mrs. Karen Ellis (Assistant Deputy Minister, Infrastructure and Environment), Mrs. Ginger Stones (Director General, Environment) and Mr. Don Edgecombe (Director, Environmental Stewardship) represented the Department of National Defence.

OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Due diligence

National Defence’s Environmental Protection and Stewardship Policy stresses environmental stewardship by seeking the integration of the concept of sustainable development in all aspects of departmental activities, operations and planning, including exercising due diligence with respect to environmental laws and regulations. Given such a policy, the Committee was very concerned when it learned about DND’s non-compliance with federal environmental legislation and regulations. While the Committee acknowledges that DND has in some cases demonstrated good environmental stewardship in the management of its training and testing sites. However, a number of specific examples demonstrating a serious lack of due diligence have been noted, such as the land-clearing activities at the Combat Training Centre (CTC) Gagetown (New Brunswick), and the lack of damage mitigation efforts to salmon spawning streams at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Aldergrove (British Columbia) which point to a degree of laxity in DND’s discharge of its environmental responsibilities. Such behaviour is inconsistent with DND’s claim that it aims to adhere to the letter and spirit of federal environmental laws and regulations.

DND’s own investigation and internal evaluation of CTC Gagetown land-clearing activities and CFS Aldergrove environmental mitigation activities also confirm that insufficient attention was being directed to environmental concerns. However, it is equally important to mention that both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada could also have demonstrated more vigour and diligence in enforcing the provisions of applicable environmental legislation and regulations. There are concerns that the incidents noted above may not be isolated events but reflect a systemic problem with integrating sustainable development concepts into day to‑day departmental planning and operations. In the cases examined, environmental laws and regulations were being flouted with little or no consequence for the responsible department.

It was observed that, in many cases, actions were undertaken without prior authorization, unclear lines of accountability and evidence of poor communication and coordination between DND and other departments and agencies. A specific case in point is the land clearing activities at CTC Gagetown. Between 1995 and 1997, up to 7,250 hectares of timber were cut to expand a mounted manœuvre area. While the land clearing activity was consistent with an objective set earlier through the chain of command, the audit found that the staff at CTC Gagetown had failed to secure the required authorizations before carrying out the activities. To cut trees on DND lands, one must first obtain authorization from the Canadian Forest Service as required by the Timber Regulations (1993) under the Forestry Act. The Service has the responsibility for managing forests on DND lands under a 1979 memorandum of understanding (MOU). Although, CTC Gagetown had severed its relationship with the Service in 1996, the 1979 MOU had not been amended so that there still was a legal requirement to obtain prior authorization from the Canadian Forest Service before cutting the timber. Furthermore, CTC Gagetown bartered timber rights in exchange of stump removal (grubbing) services and other land clearing activities. Between February 1995 and May 1997, over 50 contracts were let to clear lands and increase the manœuvre area. The contracts called for the grubbing of 8,310 hectares after timber was removed, but departmental estimates show that only about 5,600 hectares have been grubbed so far even though 7,250 hectares of timber were removed. The value of the contracts let was about $4 million. However, according to the Canadian Forest Service, the estimated value of the bartered timber rights should have been around $6.7 million. In September 2001, a DND internal draft report identified several weaknesses in the contracting methods used at CTC Gagetown. It found no evidence the land clearance initiative had been either directed or authorized by Army headquarters.

Due diligence requires all participants to establish clear lines of accountabilities and communication to ensure that each participant possesses a clear understanding of their respective responsibilities with regard to environmental legislation and regulations. To ensure that the various activities in DND training and testing areas do comply with all environmental legislation and regulations, the Department must develop stronger lines of communication between appropriate senior departmental officials in order to coordinate activities better, to establish clearer lines of accountability and to promote transparency. Furthermore, DND must take concrete actions to make all Canadian Forces Base Commanders aware of the environmental impacts of military training and testing activities on Crown-owned lands and ranges, and to remind CFB Commanders of their duties and responsibilities with regard to relevant environmental legislation and regulations. This prompts the Committee to make the following recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION No. 1

That the Department of National Defence, in collaboration with Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, immediately set up a working group composed of senior departmental officials, supervised by a steering committee, and mandated to find ways of better integrating sustainable development concepts within departmental activities, planning and daily operations, to improve communication and coordination between National Defence headquarters and the field, and to establish clearer lines of accountability. That the working group submit recommendations directly to DND’s departmental management committee.

RECOMMENDATION No. 2

That the Department of National Defence headquarters and its senior management ensure that Canadian Forces Base Commanders are made aware of their duties and responsibilities regarding relevant environmental legislation and regulations.

RECOMMENDATION No. 3

That the Department of National Defence headquarters take all the required steps to ensure that Canadian Forces Bases, when they are contemplating using bartering arrangements or contracts with outside parties, strictly adhere to the government’s policy on Accounting for Non-Monetary Transactions, and, whenever possible, seek outside expertise and assistance in designing these arrangements and determining the fair market value of the contracts.

Manœuvre Area Planning System

DND established the Manœuvre Area Planning System (MAPS) in 1996 to assess the environmental impacts of military training activities on Crown lands, to develop action plans and to implement corrective measures to mitigate and manage the environmental impacts of DND training and testing activities. The MAPS protocol requires DND to: (1) undertake an inventory of all natural resources found in training areas, (2) assess the types of military training activities, (3) evaluate the environmental impact of the training activities on these areas, and (4) develop and implement mitigation, restoration, monitoring and follow-up plans. Between November 1993 and April 1998, DND budgeted $2.5 million to carry out studies of training and test areas and prepare recommendations on mitigation measures. Seven years after its inception, the MAPS protocol is still in the initial phase of its implementation. While environmentally sensitive areas have been identified for most training and test areas, the development of mitigation, restoration, monitoring and follow-up plans has yet to be undertaken.

Based on available evidence, the audit concluded that the slow implementation of the MAPS protocol is attributable to poor communications, lack of follow-up and low funding priority. After reviewing activities on army bases, the audit noted that action was being taken on about one-third of the MAPS recommendations.

DND’s own current strategy requires that priority recommendations in plans developed from the MAPS protocol be implemented by end of March 2004. DND told the Committee that it intends to review the progress in implementing the protocol and will take appropriate action to ensure its efforts remain timely and effective. DND has identified approximately 1,600 known or suspected contaminated sites; the remediation and management measures for these sites are estimated to cost $769 million. However, according to the response to the audit recommendations, it is DND’s own business planning process that will prioritize, fund, and implement departmental activities. DND has stated that the recommendations that flow from the MAPS must compete for funding with all other departmental activities and that it will review the progress of the MAPS implementation and take appropriate action.[2] The Committee acknowledges and appreciates DND’s position but is concerned that, given DND’s many competing mandates and responsibilities and the current nature of its business planning process, the likely outcome of such an exercise is that MAPS activities will be attributed a low priority, and secure only a fraction of the required total funding, thus further delaying the final implementation of the MAPS.

RECOMMENDATION No. 4

That the Department of National Defence immediately establish a budget to complete the Manœuvre Area Planning System (MAPS) protocol and then secure long-term, stable funding for the implementation of the protocol.

RECOMMENDATION No. 5

That the Department of National Defence develop a comprehensive action plan to complete the MAPS, and that the action plan contain the appropriate budgets, priorities and implementation timetables. That the action plan be tabled in Parliament no later than 31 December 2004.

Unexploded Ordnance

The audit also examined DND’s management of training sites potentially contaminated by energetic materials (i.e., unexploded munitions), focussing particularly on live-fire ranges, to determine whether the potential for contamination by unexploded ordnance was being effectively monitored and managed. National Defence has already done some work in identifying the extent of such contamination, but progress remains slow. There are still many unknowns associated with soils contaminated by energetic materials, especially in the measurement and evaluation of risks to the environment and to human health and safety. DND has carried out some research to develop methodologies for characterizing contaminated-sites; this approach will help identify the extent of energetic material contamination on Crown lands. However, such work is costly and available funding is limited. There are concerns that mitigation work may not proceed as quickly as it should. According to DND, the total cost to complete the environmental characterization of all Army training sites (excluding Navy and Air Force training and testing sites) is estimated at about $9 million. If funding for this activity is maintained at current level of $500,000 per year, testing of all Army sites for unexploded ordnance will take up to 18 years to complete.

If live-fire testing ranges are found to be contaminated, DND must take remedial action to mitigate the pollution and restore the lands. DND clearly has considerable work ahead of it in order to finish identifying contaminated sites, setting of priorities, determining costs and monitoring the progress of both the remediation and restoration
measures. It was observed that, at the time of the audit, DND had done only some site characterization and risk assessment of certain testing ranges, and had not yet reached the stage of implementing contaminated site mitigation and restoration initiatives.

In particular, some Committee members enquired about the progress of negotiations between Canada and Germany on cost-sharing the clean-up of contaminated lands at military testing range CFB Shilo (Manitoba). Witnesses for the Department did not respond directly on this issue, but did mention that there was a current agreement with the United States for a contribution of $100 million spread over ten years towards the clean-up of four DND military installations that were used by the U.S. Military. The Committee remains concerned about the slow progress on restoring training and testing sites potentially contaminated by unexploded ordnance and proposes the following recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION No. 6

That the Department of National Defence develop a comprehensive action plan to identify sites potentially contaminated by unexploded ordnance and implement the mitigation and restoration measures, and that the action plan contain the appropriate budgets, priorities and implementation timetables. That the action plan be tabled in Parliament no later than 31 March 2004.

RECOMMENDATION No. 7

That the Department of National Defence include in its annual Report on Plans and Priorities a section that lists all DND training and testing sites potentially contaminated by unexploded ordnance, together with a summary of the remediation and restoration measures and planned implementation timetables. That the Department begin reporting this information to Parliament for the fiscal year commencing 1 April 2004.

RECOMMENDATION No. 8

That the Department of National Defence incorporate in its departmental Performance Report a section containing information about results achieved against planned targets in the identification, remediation and restoration of DND training and testing sites potentially contaminated by unexploded ordnance. That the Department begin reporting this information to Parliament for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2004.

RECOMMENDATION No. 9

That the Department of National Defence prepare a status report on the progress of the negotiations between the Government of Canada and the Government of Germany on cost-sharing the clean-up of contaminated lands at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, Manitoba. That the report be tabled in Parliament no later than 31 March 2004.

CONCLUSION

Many elements of DND’s environmental stewardship require considerable strengthening. Of particular concern were the examples of the Department’s undertaking training-related activities on Crown lands with little or no regard to federal environmental legislation and regulations. The audit observed several cases, notably CTC Gagetown, CFS Aldergrove and the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges in Nanoose Bay, where activities were being carried without due consideration of their environmental impacts on the training and testing ranges, and where CFB personnel did not demonstrate due diligence in ensuring that all proper procedures were being observed at all times and that all relevant regulations and laws were being applied. Also of concern is the lack of rigour on the part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada in enforcing environmental legislation and regulations or applying sanctions in cases of clear breaches of environmental regulations.

The Committee acknowledges that DND has, in the past, demonstrated good environmental stewardship in the management of some training and test areas. However, environmental stewardship remains inconsistent across all Canadian Forces bases. Moreover, where progress has been demonstrated, it is slow and uneven. In recent years, DND has developed protocols and systems to identify and mitigate environmental damage to military training and testing ranges. While these protocols and systems are deemed a positive first step, DND has yet to start implementing mitigation, restoration, monitoring and follow-up initiatives.

DND still has considerable work to accomplish in order to fully integrate environmental concerns into its concepts and operations. It has taken the first hesitant steps but now it needs to follow through on its commitments. It must set priorities, establish the proper level of resources and funding to carry out its actions effectively and efficiently, and report back to Parliament and Canadians about the results achieved. The time for action is now.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meeting Nos. 31 and 42) is tabled.

Respectfully submitted,


JOHN WILLIAMS, M.P.
Chair



[1]    The concept of sustainable development was developed in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) and is defined in the Commission report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

[2]    Office of the Auditor General of Canada, April 2003 Report, Chapter 7 National Defence — Environmental Stewardship of Military Training and Test Areas, Ottawa, p.12.