Environmentalists panned the federal budget on Tuesday, saying it offers very little that will help Canada curb pollution and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.
“This budget does absolutely nothing for climate change, despite the fact that it’s the Number 1 priority issue for Canadians,” said Emilie Moorhouse of the Sierra Club of Canada.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty didn’t even mention the word ‘climate change’ when he tabled the budget in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
The budget axes a federal program that offered a $2,000 rebate to consumers who bought fuel-efficient vehicles. The program, which was announced with much fanfare in last year’s budget, will come to an end March 31, 2009, with vehicles built after 2008 ineligible for a rebate.
The government said it never planned to extend the program beyond the two-year window.
The budget also, as expected, makes no mention of carbon taxes, a green initiative that was instituted in British Columbia’s budget less than a week ago. B.C. plans on taxing carbon-based fuels — like gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, coal and home heating fuel — at $10 per tonne of greenhouse gases generated.
Environmentalists said a federal carbon tax could have reduced pollution and raised money for the government.
“We’re going to have a price on carbon sooner or later,” said Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence.
The budget did offer some environmental perks, including $250 million to support the development of fuel-efficient cars.
“This will help preserve the environment,” Flaherty said in his budget speech. “It will also help preserve and create high-quality jobs.”
Other environmental aspects of the budget include:
$500 million for public transit projects.
$250 million for projects to capture and store the carbon dioxide produced by industry so that the gas isn’t released into the atmosphere.
$300 million to support nuclear energy.
$21 million for law-enforcement officers to crack down on pollution in national parks.
The government is also promising to introduce industrial targets this spring for large emitters, saying that those targets will help Canada reduce its emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels within 12 years.
Companies that pollute beyond acceptable levels will be slapped with a fine, which the government argues is a type of carbon tax.
But environmentalist Andrew Van Iterson said the Conservatives have not done enough.
“They showed some potential last year to use fiscal instruments to realign our economy to be greener and cleaner,” said Van Iterson of the Green Budget Coalition, which represents environmental groups.
“They haven’t built upon that this year in any substantive manner.”
“This is not an environmental budget. They’ve missed a great opportunity to be a global environmental leader. Canadians want to be a leader, and the government is not catching up.”