Still no sign of 2009 Manitoba Sustainability Report

Why the provincial environmental report matters

The legally-required 2009 Manitoba Sustainability Report, a tool to inform the decisions of citizens, organizations and the province, has been delayed with no firm release date set. 

Glen Holmes, a manager with Manitoba Conservation, stated that it is delayed in part because the data is complex and challenging to pull together from the various provincial and federal sources. The report is currently being drafted and undergoing the approval process by a provincial internal working group. After that, it must be reviewed and tabled in the legislature before it can be shared with the public.

It is unclear how long this process will take, Holmes noted.

The completed report will give an overview of the health of the province across the three sectors of the environment, the economy and social well-being.  It is set to measure a range of items like water quality, mineral exploration and income inequality in Manitoba, according to Holmes.

“The intent is to provide Manitobans with a made-in-Manitoba picture, using data that Manitobans find important,” he said. 

Province-specific reports allow government and non-profit educational and environmental sustainability organizations, like Resource Conservation Manitoba (RCM), to identify changes in the quality of life in Manitoba and identify legislation, policies or programs that require change. 

“It is helpful to have this information summarized with a Manitoba focus,” said Randall McQuaker, executive director of RCM. “It is a way of monitoring and evaluating our progress as a province and identifying gaps where further work is needed.”

While she looks forward to the report, Gaile Whelan Enns, director of the non-profit environmental and public research organization Manitoba Wildlands, questions the way it was drawn up.

“During the 1990s, state of the environment reports came out every two years; there were workshops and discussions with citizens, and the reports were subject to a certain amount of peer review,” Whelan Enns said. “The 2005 report appeared like an immaculate incarnation done completely inside government and the International Institute of Sustainable Development.”

While the public was consulted on the Sustainable Development Act and the initial indicators, Holmes stated that Manitoba Conservation is willing to seek more public input for the 2014 report if the public demands it.

Another option, Whelan Enns suggests, is to produce the report through the provincial auditor’s office.

“It would ensure the report is supervised, more independent, more arms-length, and allow for more involvement from other experts and academics that aren’t employed by government,” she said.

Since the first report came out in 2005, legislation like the 2008 Climate Change and Emissions Reductions Act has been tabled in an effort to ensure that greenhouse gas emission levels do not increase from the stable position they reached in 2005. Whelan Enns cautions that until the six remaining clauses of the Act’s 27 are brought into force, the legislation is not as effective as it could be.

Despite the usefulness of this report, non-profit environmental organizations in Manitoba have not received any calls from citizens wondering about the status of the 2009 report.

“I haven’t heard anything about this report, and it hasn’t been on my radar at all,” said Susan Lindsay, program manager with Climate Change Connection. “No members of the public have been asking us about it.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 2, 2010)

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