NDP knew climate plan wouldn't meet emissions targets: auditor general's report

Manitoba’s former NDP government knew by 2009 that it wouldn’t be able to meet its emissions targets following a 2008 plan, but didn’t change the plan for six years, according to a new report from the province’s auditor general.

Manitoba AG's report finds former NDP government knew by 2009 its plan wouldn’t meet goals set in 2008

The former NDP government knew in 2009 that it wouldn't be able to meet emissions targets using its 2008 plan, but didn't change the plan for another six years, according to an auditor general's report tabled on Wednesday. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Manitoba's former NDP government knew by 2009 that it wouldn't be able to meet its emissions targets following a 2008 plan, but didn't change that plan for another six years, according to a new report from the province's auditor general.

The report, tabled in the legislature on Wednesday, found the department of sustainable development under the NDP "was aware by the fall of 2009 that the initiatives in its 2008 plan would be insufficient to meet the 2012 target enshrined in The Climate Change and Emissions Reductions Act."

That law, which came into force in 2008, included a promise to meet Kyoto Protocol targets by 2012, translating to an overall greenhouse gas emission of 17.5 megatonnes — six per cent below 1990 levels.

But in the Wednesday report, Managing Climate Change, Auditor General Norm Ricard writes there's been little change to greenhouse gas emissions across the province over the past nine years. Ricard said past plans were unsupported by analysis and lacked progress monitoring.

"No government has gone far enough to address emissions," said NDP sustainable development critic Rob Altemeyer, in an emailed statement sent to CBC News by a spokesperson.

"However, this [Progressive Conservative] government's decision to weaken legislation protecting Lake Winnipeg and slash funding to public transit won't help us make progress on the environment. With our new leader, we are setting a new direction on climate change. We look forward to being a part of the conversation moving forward."

Wolseley NDP MLA Rob Altemeyer said no government has gone far enough to reduce emissions. (CBC)

A 'scathing indictment': Squires

The report criticizes the New Democrats' 2008 plan as ineffective and unsupported by evidence.

"As explained in [Sustainable Development] department documents, some initial estimates of emissions reductions were too high, some expected federal actions did not occur and some program participation rates were lower than originally anticipated," the report states.

"Our 2010 audit report found that weaknesses in planning and project management also contributed to the shortfall."

The plan wasn't updated until December 2015, with Manitoba's Climate and Green Economy Action Plan. The report says the new version included "only high-level strategies," failing to provide detail or estimates of expected emissions reductions or costs.

Neither the 2008 nor the 2015 plan was supported by comprehensive analysis of the benefits, risks or costs of different approaches, the AG's report adds, stating the province "conducted no economic or scientific analyses in setting the 2008 and 2015 targets."

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires says the province will look into the auditor general's climate report 'in full,' and called it a 'scathing indictment' of former NDP practices. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Progressive Conservative Minister of Sustainable Development Rochelle Squires called the document a "scathing indictment" of the New Democrats' work on climate change.

Climate plan coming Friday: province

The report also noted Manitoba's lack of updated emissions reduction targets or a concrete plan for reducing emissions as of July 2017, and included eight recommendations on climate action in the province.

Premier Brian Pallister refused to sign on to Ottawa's Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change in December, and promised to deliver a "made-in-Manitoba" climate plan in its stead.

Earlier this week, Pallister told reporters the plan will be unveiled on Friday. On Wednesday, he tweeted a video from the province hinting at what it might contain.

Squires said she didn't want to "speculate" about how the plan would go over with the federal government.

The provincial video lays out four "pillars" of the climate plan, and their "supporting keystones":

  • Climate: Clean energy, carbon pricing, sector emissions reductions and adaptation.
  • Water: Agriculture and land use, wetlands and watersheds, flood and drought, and water quality.
  • Nature: Parks and protected areas, wild species and habitat, forests and natural areas, and conservation.
  • Jobs: Innovation and clean tech, financing and investment, skills and training, and green infrastructure.

The auditor general's recommendations include a review and update of the province's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whenever it seems targets won't be met, a system to monitor progress, and the use of scientific analyses to set short-, medium- and long-term goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Asked if the province plans to set emissions targets, Squires said the province's ultimate goal is to look at climate action in a "holistic manner."

"We are going to be finding ways in which we can enhance our wetlands in this province. We are going to look at ways we can really achieve results.… Carbon reduction is certainly a key, but we also want to look at our climate in a holistic manner," she said.

Squires added the province will be looking at the auditor general's report "in full."

With files from Sean Kavanagh