OTTAWA – The auditor general says it couldn’t get the information it needed from Ottawa to determine whether the government is meeting its commitments to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
In his spring report, auditor general Michael Ferguson says his office has pitched a losing battle with the federal Department of Finance to gain access to the information required to fully examine the government’s actions on climate change.
While the report notes Environment and Climate Change Canada has a plan to support the commitments Canada made at a G20 summit in 2009, it says there’s no way of knowing whether Finance has done the work needed to support that plan.
Auditors say Finance refused to provide documents they requested, citing cabinet confidence.
Their report concludes that, while six subsidies to fossil fuel producers have been reformed through legislation, other tax measures have not changed.
And it says the Finance Department has no plan in place to phase out and rationalize the government’s remaining fossil fuel subsidies.
“The department of Finance Canada refused to provide all the analyses that we requested for tax measures that focus on the fossil fuel sector,” says the report, tabled Tuesday.
“As a result, we could not provide assurance that the department analyzed the social, economic and environmental aspects of all these tax measures to support informed decision making relating to Canada’s 2009 G20 commitment.”
Without a clear understanding of the subsidies, the government can’t assure Canadians that it’s living up to its commitment to phase them out by 2025, the report added.
Meeting that commitment, the auditors concluded, will help lower greenhouse gas emissions by reducing wasteful consumption of fossil fuels, resulting in a positive impact on the health of Canadians and investments in green technology.
The report called on the government to clearly define how it intends to phase out remaining fossil fuel subsidies, and to ensure low-income Canadians aren’t adversely affected by the plan.