Harper issues a “tough on nature” budget

OTTAWA - The Harper Conservatives have followed through on
threats to erode environmental protection and grease the wheels for greater
fossil fuel development. As well, it has killed the voice of its sustainable
development advisory council, the National Round Table on Environment and
Economy – an agency created by the Mulroney Government, and ironically
currently headed by Jim Flaherty’s former Chief of Staff David McLaughlin. It also
threatens environmental groups with sanctions if advocacy for the environment
annoys the Prime Minister by branding it “political activity.” “First, it
gagged the scientists, now it is killing the advisory institute the NRTEE, and
has sent a warning shot to silence on-government conservation groups.  Without measurements, science or critics who
can speak without fear, Harper’s agenda heads towards steam-rolling massive
fossil fuel expansion.”

Environment Canada, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, CIDA
and CBC are all facing cuts (6%, 4%, 4%, 9% and 10% respectively).  Meanwhile money will flow to help build
pipelines, help fund industry tanker regulations, increase junior mining
prospecting activity (historically the most environmentally damaging of all
aspects of mining), promote seismic testing and drive off-shore oil and
gas  development.  The sensitive Gulf of St. Lawrence is
particularly identified for rapid development – even though Environment
Minister Peter Kent had committed to a Gulf-wide environmental review which has
yet to be announced.

“The code word for destroying environmental protection is to
‘streamline’; the code word for killing good agencies is ‘their work is done,’”
said Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “The PM says
he is ‘tough on crime.’ This budget proves that he is ‘tough on nature.’ What
did nature ever do to him?”

There is no new money for climate science, and no money to
save the PEARL research station at Eureka, though there is money to build a non-atmospheric
science station at Cambridge Bay. The popular ecoEnergy housing retrofit
programme will not be extended, but subsidies will continue for the nuclear
industry and bio-technology. Meanwhile, although some tax benefits are being
phased out for Atlantic oil and gas, fossil fuel subsidies will continue for
the oil sands.

 The words “climate
change” do not appear in the budget at all. 
There is $99 million to assist municipalities with flooding, but no mention
that increased flooding will occur due to climate change. Unfortunately,
research conducted by the National Research Council will now be increasingly
focused toward commercial activities and “business-led” priorities , instead of
on true science that expands our knowledge of the world.

It is also disturbing that in the section “Deeper
Canada-China Ties” there are no mentions of human rights, climate change or of
the need to actually define ‘national security’, when dealing with investment
by foreign governments and state owned enterprises  into key national resources.

Finally, despite the strong national consensus that has
emerged for improving education for First Nations communities, the $275 million
that has been allotted over three years falls well short of the $2 billion
funding shortfall identified by the Assembly of First Nations.

“This budget continues the Harper Conservatives’ assault on
the environment in more ways than one. 
The cuts to seniors, veterans, cultural institutions, and overseas
development assistance, are all deeply disturbing.  We identified areas of waste equal to those
areas chosen for cuts in this budget. The Prime Minister had a choice where to
cut and where to invest.  He made the
wrong choices. Greens are incensed by this government’s callous disregard for
the things that matter most to Canadians,” said May.

Media Contact:

Rebecca Harrison