Squandered opportunities in 2018 budget

February 27, 2018
(OTTAWA) — Despite increasingly urgent warnings from climate scientists that the window to achieve the Paris target is rapidly closing, the federal budget tabled on February 27 does nothing to accelerate climate action and nothing to prepare for the impact of catastrophic climate events.

In fact, today’s announcement that the government’s carbon pricing scheme, promised for this year, will not be implemented “in whole or in part” until January 1 next year, means that the whole plan is being weakened.

“The Paris target of holding global average temperature at no more than 1.5 degrees C above Industrial Revolution levels is a fundamental goal that should involve a whole-of-government approach,” said Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “Yet Budget 2018 does not touch subsidies to fossil fuels in the oil patch and for fracked natural gas.

“I had hoped to see some of the climate measures that were introduced in the 2005 budget. In that era, a minority Liberal government brought in Eco-Energy retrofits for homeowners, rebates for hybrids and EVs, an initiative to expand our east-west electricity grid, and many other programmes to move us towards climate goals.

“There is no doubt that the current Liberals talk a much better line on climate than the Conservatives, but having adopted Stephen Harper’s inadequate target they are on track to miss it, even though that target is incompatible with the overwhelming priority of achieving the Paris goal of 1.5 degrees.

“While we welcome this ‘gender’ budget’s promise of legislation guaranteeing women equal pay for work of equal value, we must also point out that the impacts of climate disruption fall disproportionately on women.”

There are a number of budget initiatives that will improve Canada’s role in the world. Particularly laudable is the first boost to overseas development assistance funding since 2015. Funding support for completing Canada’s biodiversity and network of protected areas is positive, although the allocation of $1.3 billion over five years falls short of the Green Budget Coalition request for $1.4 billion over three years.

Also welcome are substantial commitments to meet the rulings of the Human Rights Tribunal for justice for indigenous children. “The new Minister of Indigenous Services, the Hon. Jane Philpott, has made progress at long last in getting the dollars to back up the promises. But she has a challenging road ahead,” said Ms. May.

Support for science is another positive area with $1.7 billion over five years for the next generation of researchers and $1.3 billion over the same time frame for investments in labs and equipment. Federal granting agencies will also see increased funding.

But overall the budget’s lack of ambition and big goals is a disappointment. Small businesses are the economic backbone of many Canadian communities but there is little in this budget to cheer the owner-operators of these small and medium enterprises.

The only big new idea in Budget 2018 is one long championed by the Green Party – a national Pharmacare plan. “Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that lacks a plan for prescription drug coverage,” noted Green Party deputy leader and health critic Daniel Green. “While this budget allocates no funding, it does launch a high-level consultation to move us towards Pharmacare. This could be an important step forward for health care in this country.”

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