Anniversary of Ombudsman’s Report Opportunity for Department to Rebuild Bridges of Trust Between Groups

FREDERICTON — Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the Ombudsman of New Brunswick’s report on the Department of Environment’s management of the Water Classification Program.

The report provided evidence showing the department and successive government ministers intentionally failed to enforce the program for more than a decade. The Water Classification Program was introduced in 2002 to protect provincial rivers by establishing water quality standards and management plans.

The ombudsman’s report, released on Aug. 15, 2014, concluded the program and its accompanying regulation were an illusion, misleading New Brunswickers into believing the government was protecting rivers.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick was among the groups who submitted a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman in February 2013, spearheading the investigation.

The Water Classification Program is still in effect today, but protections for the 19 rivers submitted under the program have yet to be signed into law.

“The provincial government has the chance to turn the anniversary of this report into a positive by moving now to enforce the Water Classification Program,” says Stephanie Merrill, Director of Freshwater Protection at the Conservation Council. “The work to classify 19 rivers has already been done and people are behind this kind of protection, we just need approval.”

Merrill noted that lake groups in the province are currently having similar challenges with the Department of Environment. The groups haven’t been receiving test results from the department which could help them predict the onset of conditions such as blue-green algae blooms, which has been a problem on some of New Brunswick’s most popular recreational lakes this summer.

“New Brunswickers, and especially those working so hard to keep our waters healthy, need to have confidence in how our waters are being managed. Enforcing the Water Classification Program is an opportunity for the department to show good faith and ensure New Brunswickers that our rivers and lakes are a priority.”

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To arrange an interview, contact: Jon MacNeill, Communications Director, 458-8747 | 261-1353 | jon.macneill@conservationcouncil.ca

More on the Water Classification program and CCNB’s response to the Ombudsman’s report in August 2014

More on blue-green algae in our lakes