Budget 2016 may deliver for housing and youth, but misses the mark on climate action

On Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 in Press Releases
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The 2016 budget contains encouraging measures for health, education, youth, waste and water works, and public infrastructure, but misses the mark on climate action and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies.

Many Green Party of Canada requests from the pre-budget submission to Finance Minister Bill Morneau have been accepted. These include:

  • energy retrofits to existing social housing;
  • support for affordable rental housing;
  • re-opening the Canadian Coast Guard Kitsilano base in Vancouver;
  • restored funding to the CBC;
  • reinstating the Court Challenges Program;
  • restored funding for the Experimental Lakes Area;
  • an additional $50 million to Sustainable Development Technology Canada;
  • investing in science and returning support for basic scientific research;
  • funding to go after off-shore tax havens;
  • tourism promotion;
  • increasing the international assistance envelope;
  • elimination of boutique tax breaks that benefitted few, and investing in community, recreational and cultural facilities;
  • action to reduce the burden of student loans and an increase in student grants;
  • and a strong commitment of $8.4 billion to address the crisis in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

In Budget 2016, the right words are used on a wide range of issues – such as support for VIA Rail, clean technology investment, or expanding the east-west electricity grid – with small amounts of inadequate funding allocated.

The Green Party of Canada was disappointed by a lack of climate-specific elements in Budget 2016.

“The new government’s approach is a vast improvement compared to the previous administration, but when comparing Budget 2016 with the last Liberal budget – from former Finance Minister Ralph Goodale in 2005 – this one misses the mark on climate action,” said Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.

The 2005 budget offered a fully formed climate action plan, including eco-energy rebates for homeowners, substantial funding for provinces to act to address the climate challenge, rebates for the purchase of energy efficient vehicles, and a carbon pricing scheme through a complicated carbon credit approach. The 2016 budget contains none of these measures.

“Disturbingly, the budget cites the target of the Paris Agreement as avoiding 2 degrees Celsius global average temperature increase, when it was Canadian leadership that helped drive the world to the more ambitious goal of striving to hold temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees C,” Ms. May said.

“The Liberal platform promised carbon pricing, which we did not expect to see today given the negotiations with the premiers. It also promised to reduce subsidies to fossil fuels by $125 million in 2017-18. No changes have yet been made to fossil fuel subsidies and subsidies to LNG are specifically continued until the end of 2024,” said Ms. May.

Sold as improving environmental assessment, this budget actually entrenches the gutting of environmental assessment brought in by the 2012 omnibus budget bill C-38. Rather than repeal C-38, this budget commits to four years’ worth of funding for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for “fulfilling its responsibilities” under the C-38 version of the Environmental Assessment Act. It also provides funding for what was announced last month by Ministers McKenna and Carr as “interim measures” to cope with the broken process under C-38’s environmental review.  The funding of these “interim measures” is to last for years, which suggests they are permanent.

“Where is the political will to reverse the horrific environmental damage of the last administration? I knew it might take time to remove Bill C-38, but it is a shock to see a budget entrenching spending for the next four years on the assumption that this anti-environmental law will persist,” Ms. May said.

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