Press Release - September 16, 2004

Coalition Welcomes EDC Report, Warns Only First Step for Crown Corporation

Ottawa, September 16 – A Canadian coalition of development, environment, faith-based, human rights, and labour groups today welcomed the release of Export Development Canada’s Second Annual Chief Environmental Adviser’s Report, but warned that this is only a small step towards ensuring greater public accountability for the Crown Corporation.

“We are definitely encouraged that EDC chose to release this report for a second year running, and responded to earlier feedback by shedding a little more light on EDC’s internal workings”, said Fraser Reilly-King, Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on EDC. “But when you have to wait a year to get any substantive information relating to EDC’s environmental transactions, it becomes obvious how far they still have to go.”

Under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ‘Common Approaches’ - a framework for how Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) are to take the environment into account – EDC is required to make available to the public at least annually information on projects classified in Categories A (potentially significant adverse environmental impact) and B (medium environmental impacts that can be mitigated).

Although the report does this, EDC have yet to publicly disclose a single environmental impact assessment (EIA) for any Category A or Canada Account projects prior to committing the funds, as was the case with last year’s $328 million guarantee for the Cernavoda Nuclear Reactor in Romania. While it might be necessary to withhold some project details for reasons of commercial confidentiality, ECAs in the United States and United Kingdom have found that EIAs often do not include information of a competitive nature. As a result, both now disclose the project EIAs prior to considering them before their boards.

“Transparency is about more than annual reports that tell you what has already happened. It is also about informing and consulting with communities and interested parties before projects are approved”, Mr. Reilly-King continued. “EDC has yet to show that it is committed to doing that”.

This may change next month when the Treasury Board submits its recommendations to Parliament on an Accountability Framework for Crown Corporations. It is expected to propose that all Crown Corporations be subject to the Access to Information Act, although groups such as Canada Post and EDC have already been reported as lobbying for an exemption to this provision.

“The Canadian public are expecting greater and more meaningful transparency for all these institutions, including EDC”, added Mr. Reilly-King. “Now it’s up to the government and parliament to deliver on that expectation.”

For further information, contact:

Fraser Reilly-King
Coordinator, NGO Working Group on EDC
(613) 789-4447