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A recent report published by the Conference Board of Canada has found Ontario to be the top environmental performing province in the country based on 9 criteria.

But in the larger scheme of things, the same report found that the environmental record of Canada as a whole is woefully lacking compared to that of its peers.

The report, released last month, ranked the individual provinces alongside Canada and several other “peer” countries across nine environmental indicators. These indicators were meant to illustrate a given jurisdiction’s environmental performance on air pollution (nitrogen oxide emissions; sulphur oxides emissions; VOC emissions; and particulate matter emissions), waste (waste generation), freshwater management (wastewater treatment and water withdrawals), and climate change (GHG emissions; low-emitting electricity production; and energy intensity).

Ontario was the top-performing province, and the only one to receive a “B” grade. Quebec, British Columbia, and PEI were ranked “C” performers, while the remaining provinces received “D” or “D-” grades. The territories were not ranked given insufficient data on for a number of the criteria.

Energy intensity was cited as a problem for the provinces across the board, with only one (Newfoundland) receiving a grade above a “D.” Another consistent problem for the provinces appears to be air pollution.

Meanwhile, Canada received an overall “D” grade, placing it behind the 4 provinces who received “B” or “C” grades. Amongst its peers, Canada came in at 14th place out of a total of 16 countries. Only the United States and Australia performed more poorly.

The report chalked Canada’s poor performance largely up to its geographic expanse and spread out population. This results in higher per capita energy consumption, as more energy is lost in transmission and transportation of goods than is experienced in smaller, more densely populated countries. Another factor is its heavy economic reliance upon resource extraction and agriculture—primary industries that tend to consume greater energy per dollar of GDP than other industries. And of course, Canada’s comparatively cold climate plays a role in higher energy consumption in comparison to most of its peers.

These largely immutable challenges aside, there is clearly ample room for improvement at both the provincial and federal levels in each of the broad categories evaluated in the report (air, waste, water, and climate change).

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