Green Budget Coalition Responds to Budget
Ottawa (January 28, 2009) - The Green Budget Coalition caucuses, comprising 20 of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organizations, today released its response to the 2009 federal budget.
The government did partially fund our recommendation for infrastructure in national parks, providing $75 million of infrastructure funding to improve degrading infrastructure such as roads, visitor centres and campgrounds.
This budget is a missed opportunity to put Canada on a green track. The lack of support for nature is just part of the absent environmental story in this budget. The government’s commitment to amending and streamlining the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act could all potentially weaken federal laws that protect our land and water ecosystems.
The budget states “environmental protection will not be compromised.” We will hold them to the highest standard as we scrutinize the regulatory changes. These are critical tools for sustainable development and any weakening of these laws should be a great concern for Canadians. In October 2008 Prime Minister Harper said “we cannot separate environmental and economic policy.” These words ring hollow in light of the proposed 2009 federal budget. The government has failed to recognize that like the economy, the environment is also in crisis, and that protecting nature and conserving natural resources are critical to our economic well-being.
Climate/Ecological Fiscal Reform Caucus
Not only did the budget not include any new support for renewable energy, it de facto let the major support mechanism for renewable electricity come to an end this year. Because the budget failed to renew and expand the ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program, over 1,500 MW of renewable energy projects ― representing private investment of over $3.5 billion ― have been jeopardized.
“This is a very disappointing missed opportunity for Canada to play a leading role in renewable energy,” said Tim Weis, Director of Renewable Energy Policy at the Pembina Institute. “Without any sort of support, we will see renewable energy investment dollars go south of the border.”
The budget does contain an estimated $1.6 billion over the next two years for “clean energy” programs (such as home energy efficiency retrofits) and sustainable energy infrastructure (including modern power lines), as well as funds for developing carbon capture and storage. However, on a per capita basis, this level of investment is four times less than President Obama’s “green stimulus” measures, which include at least $55 billion for clean energy.
This budget immediately leaves Canada lagging far behind the U.S. in deploying clean energy that fights global warming. It also represents a huge missed opportunity to create green jobs in Canada.
“The government has just missed a key opportunity to invest in job creation and promote the health of one of Canada’s most important economic assets,” said Matt Retallack, Senior Project Manager for Pollution Probe. “Broad water conservation and efficiency, alongside investments in water and wastewater infrastructure would create jobs now while saving water, energy, and money, now and in the future. A failure to invest now will only result in a greater cost down the road for future generations.”
"Infrastructure funds should have been geared toward environmental health priorities," said Aaron Freeman, Policy Director for Environmental Defence. "Clean water should be at the top of the list. Yet governments continue to allow this fundamental need to languish, as they prioritize environmentally destructive boondoggles like new highways that increase urban sprawl."
The budget’s investment of $165 million over five years for water and wastewater treatment on First Nations Reserves is encouraging, though modest compared to what is needed. “This funding for water and wastewater infrastructure on First Nations reserves is long overdue, and still falls far short of the Government’s commitments under the Kelowna Accord,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director, the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
About the Green Budget Coalition
For specific recommendations:
Climate/Ecological Fiscal Reform Caucus:
Pierre Sadik, David Suzuki Foundation