Ottawa (March 5, 2008) The Green Budget Coalition, comprising 19 of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organisations, today released the below letter to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressing their disappointment with the 2008 federal budget.
The letter, signed by Julie Gelfand, Green Budget Coalition Chair, explained that the Coalition was “very disappointed in the 2008 federal budget, because it failed to make any substantive progress on the three most critical environmental opportunities:”
 
– Establishing an adequate price on carbon,
– Conserving Canada’s biodiversity nation-wide on land and in the oceans,
– Renewing the environment of the combined Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region.
“This failure was particularly disappointing,” wrote Gelfand, because repeated surveys have shown Canadians regard the environment as their top priority, and Prime Minister Harper had called global warming, “perhaps the greatest threat to humanity today”. 
Gelfand noted the budget was also a missed opportunity to build upon the current government’s past investments in nature conservation, Great Lakes clean-up, and steps towards aligning Canada’s fiscal policy with environmental objectives. Instead, the budget’s cuts to Parks Canada’s current program funding risk harming the protection of Canada’s national parks.
In the letter, the Coalition also:
·         Commended:
o   Funding for public transit; and
o   Addressing toxic wastes from consumer products;
·         Criticized:
o   Investments in environmentally problematic industries, including nuclear power;
o   The renewal of an unnecessary mineral exploration tax credit;
o   Funding international promotion of Canada’s unsustainable forestry industry; and
o   Ending, rather than improving, the rebates for purchases of energy efficient automobiles, and
·         Commented on means to ensure, and improve, environmental benefits from the:
o   Gas tax transfer to municipalities, 
o   Biofuels research funding, and 
o   Auto sector R & D funding.
The Green Budget Coalition’s members include Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Centre for Integral Economics, David Suzuki Foundation, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ecojustice Canada (formerly Sierra Legal), Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Friends of the Earth Canada, Greenpeace Canada, International Institute for Sustainable Development, MiningWatch Canada, Nature Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Pembina Institute, Pollution Probe, Sierra Club of Canada, Social Investment Organization, and World Wildlife Fund Canada.
 
The Coalition submits environmental recommendations for each annual federal budget. The Coalition’s full Recommendations for Budget 2008 are available at http://www.greenbudget.ca/2008/main.html.
 
For more information, please contact:
·         Julie Gelfand, Chair, 613-562-8208 ext. 231, cell 613-858-5029, jgelfand@naturecanada.ca
·         Andrew Van Iterson, Program Manager, 613-562-8208 ext. 243; avaniterson@naturecanada.ca.
 
www.greenbudget.ca
 
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March 4, 2008
 
Hon. Jim Flaherty
Minister of Finance
140 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, ON. K1A 0G5
 
cc:        Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Hon. John Baird, Minister of Environment
Hon. Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources
Hon. Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry
Hon. Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Hon. Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Tony Clement, Minister of Health
Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
 
Dear Minister Flaherty,
 
I am writing on behalf of the Green Budget Coalition to provide you with our response to the 2008 federal budget, in the interests of continuing our constructive dialogue with you, your colleagues, and Finance Canada officials.
As you know, the Green Budget Coalition comprises 19 of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organizations, and submits environmental recommendations for each federal budget.
 
Overall, the Green Budget Coalition was very disappointed in the 2008 federal budget, because it failed to make any substantive progress on the three most critical environmental opportunities:
Establishing an adequate price on greenhouse gas pollution, a fundamental component of any credible climate plan for Canada that could make renewable energy technologies and carbon capture and storage technology viable without public subsidies;
Conserving Canada’s biodiversity nation-wide on land and in the oceans through the establishment of protected areas and integrated oceans management plans.   The budget’s reductions in funding to Parks Canada’s current programs could in fact negatively impact Parks Canada’s ability to fulfill its mandate of protecting the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks; and
Investing in a comprehensive, long-term sustainability strategy to restore, protect, and enhance the environment of the combined Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region.
This failure was particularly disappointing for three reasons. First, repeated surveys have shown that Canadians regard the environment as their top priority. Second, the Prime Minister himself called global warming “perhaps the greatest threat to confront the future of humanity today”. Third, this budget provided an important opportunity to build upon your government’s past investments in nature conservation and in cleaning up the Great Lakes, and upon its steps towards better aligning Canada’s fiscal policy with its environmental objectives.
 
The Coalition commends the budget for providing funding for public transit and for addressing toxic wastes from consumer products.
 
The Coalition welcomes the decision to make the gas tax transfer to municipalities permanent, but believes this funding would be more effective if it were made conditional on the achievement of specific environmental goals and on the implementation of measures to more fully incorporate natural capital values and pollution costs into market prices. Similarly, while the Coalition supports well-considered biofuels research, we are concerned that the budget’s funding in this area did not include criteria to ensure that the biofuels produce environmental and sustainability benefits.
 
The coalition would also appreciate clarification on the objectives and conditions attached to the funding made available to Canada’s automotive sector for the development of “innovative, greener and more fuel-efficient vehicles”.
 
The Coalition is critical of the following budget actions, due to their detrimental implications for Canada’s environment: investments in environmentally problematic industries, including nuclear power; the renewal of the unnecessary Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (“super flow-through-share program”) for another year; funding for international promotion of Canada’s unsustainable forest industry; and the decision to end, rather than extend and improve, the feebate structure for new automobile purchases, including the rebates for purchases of energy efficient automobiles.
 
The Green Budget Coalition’s members include Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Centre for Integral Economics, David Suzuki Foundation, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ecojustice Canada (formerly Sierra Legal), Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Friends of the Earth Canada, Greenpeace Canada, International Institute for Sustainable Development, MiningWatch Canada, Nature Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Pembina Institute, Pollution Probe, Sierra Club of Canada, Social Investment Organization, and World Wildlife Fund Canada.
 
We would be very pleased to discuss the 2008 budget, and the contents of this letter, with you, your colleagues, and Finance Canada officials. In addition, we will subsequently release a more detailed assessment of the environmental measures included in this budget. We look forward to continued cooperation with you and your department in order to achieve long-term environmental sustainability for all Canadians.
 
Please note that we plan to make this letter public.
 
Yours sincerely,
Julie Gelfand, Chair, Green Budget Coalition
President, Nature Canada