Mudslinging hurts democratic debate about climate and economy, says outgoing watchdog Scott Vaughan, Parliament’s outgoing environment watchdog, Scott Vaughan, says no one should be bullied for seeking information by Mike De Souza, Postmedia News, April 2, 2013, canada.com
“I found it a little discouraging when you’re coming forward with absolutely serious issues, which have profound economic consequences – even health consequences, (and) ecological consequences – and (in response from politicians) we go into a lot of soundbites,” Vaughan said. … Vaughan noted that he has occasionally been a target of this mudslinging. After audits that criticized the government’s policies to address climate change and heat-trapping greenhouse gases from industrial sources, as well as the government’s plan to clean up contaminated sites, Environment Minister Peter Kent challenged the commissioner’s credibility, suggesting the findings were out of date, incorrect and misinformed, Vaughan said.
In another case, he said that political scientist Tom Flanagan, a former Conservative adviser, referred to him as an environmental extremist for suggesting that oil and gas companies needed to provide more information about the fluids injected into underground rock formations to extract natural gas, a process commonly known as fracking. Vaughan said that no one should be bullied for seeking information.
But the former watchdog said the nature of his previous work as commissioner, inside the auditor general’s office, sometimes revealed deficiencies in government programs that would not make senior officials happy. Kent and his parliamentary secretary, Michelle Rempel, have continued to suggest in recent months that Vaughan was supportive of the government’s plan to overhaul environmental laws. The watchdog had, in fact, called for better enforcement of existing laws to ensure companies respected conditions of industrial development after getting approval for new projects. Meanwhile, the commissioner’s office is pursuing an investigation to examine the impacts of recent changes to laws protecting water, environmental assessments and endangered species.
Vaughan is now president and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a think-tank that has been negotiating with the government to take over management of a world-renowned freshwater research facility, the Experimental Lakes Area. The government decided in 2012 to stop offering about $3 million in annual funding, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada, which could force the site to shut down in the absence of a new owner. While Vaughan said he was not privy to the negotiations, the institute could preserve existing projects and continue to examine decades of records, allowing society to understand impacts of industrial development and climate change. [Emphasis added]