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While federal environmental enforcement is less frequent these days, the fines imposed are getting larger. The small town of Ponoka, Alberta (population about 7000) was fined $70,000 after pleading guilty to one count under the Fisheries Act. The Town was releasing effluent from their wastewater lagoon in the Battle River, as permitted by the Province, but was charged for doing so by the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans. Town officials felt they were caught between inconsistent regulations of the two levels of government.

As frequently happens with federal environmental enforcement, I’ve seen no evidence that DFO warned the Town before charging it, or made any effort to coordinate its regulations with the provincial ones. This makes poor enforcement policy, especially with public bodies like municipalities. Prosecute deliberate defiance, by all means, but why not first make the rules clear and consistent, and give organizations a reasonable opportunity to comply with them?

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