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Harper’s Budget: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Maintained, Conservation Groups Targeted

2012/03/31

While I’ve been traveling in southern Ontario this past week, with little time to spend on the internet, it seems that my fellow Canadians and I have fallen down the rabbit hole. With the warmest March on the record books coming to a close after decades of scientific warnings about global heating from the global economy’s dependence on burning fossil fuels, and a litany of other environmental disasters on the horizon – from a fresh water crisis to ocean acidification to the degeneration of the very soil we depend on to grow our food – Canada’s federal government has produced a budget that resolutely ignores every reality except the one in the corporate boardroom. As Tom Rand tweeted this morning: We’re on the Titanic, iceberg’s in sight. Harper’s decided to hit the gas & have another Scotch. Here are a few “highlights” from Thursday’s budget:

  • It contains an $8-million plan to crack down on conservation groups, while maintaining substantial tax incentives for the oil and gas sector. Part of the crackdown on environmental groups includes adding new resources to the Canada Revenue Agency to monitor and restrict environmental groups from sending out emails to supporters and other activities that are considered to be political in nature. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stated in the budget:“Recently, concerns have been raised that some charities may not be respecting the rules regarding political activities..There have also been calls for greater public transparency related to the political activities of charities, including the extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources.” 
    The monitoring will cost Canadian taxpayers $5 million in 2012-2013 and $3 million in the following fiscal year.
  • It eliminates the budget for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. the NRTEE was originally established in the 1990s to advise the prime minister, and produced regular reports that challenged the business and environmental policies of the government. Last fall the NRTEE produced a report on the effects of climate change on Canada, Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change For Canada. I guess they’re paying the price for their truth-telling now; although to be fair, the Government had to get the extra $5 million dollars to monitor environmental groups’ political activities from somewhere.

As Post Media journalist Mike De Souza wrote:

The new spending comes as the federal government is reducing budgets at Environment Canada — as well as other related investments on environmental protection and research — by hundreds of millions of dollars, while maintaining several exploration and development tax incentives for the oil and gas sector that Flaherty’s department recommended eliminating in a secret memo that was leaked in 2010.

David Sawyer, an environmental economist who specializes in climate change policy, has estimated these remaining subsidies are costing taxpayers $1.3 billion per year, while encouraging more pollution and emissions that cause global warming.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has defended the incentives, citing a study co-authored by a board member of Imperial Oil, which concluded that the sector was not getting special treatment.

This government’s short-sighted agenda should concern all Canadians, at least those not sitting on the board of directors of an oil company; and even those people must have children and grandchildren whom they love, and for whom they would like to preserve clean water, clean air, and a stable climate. As I pointed out in a meeting with my Conservative Member of Parliament this past week, the people in this riding are not benefiting from the Alberta oil boom, and in fact are being hurt by it, as (to give just one example) the permafrost melts under the feet of the First Nations living on the coast of the Hudson Bay. Mr. Harper and his minions are reminiscent of a kid who’s broken into a candy store and is gorging himself on the treats in front of him, with no thought of the consequences. When reality hits, it won’t just be Harper and friends who will have a stomach and toothache; all Canadians, especially our children and grandchildren, will pay the price.

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BTW, in yet another egregious affront to Canadians and our democracy, this budget cuts $7.5 million in funding to Elections Canada, right in the middle of an election fraud scandal in which this government is implicated.

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There’s going to be a new code on Parliament Hill, Bend the rules, you will be punished; break the law, you will be charged; abuse the public trust, you will go to prison.Stephen Harper in 2006

More links:

NotOurBudget.ca

Budget Targets Environmental Critics

Budget Cuts: Another Victory in Tory War On Information

Finding The Silver Lining In An Otherwise Grey Budget

NRTEE: Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change For Canada

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/03/31 8:54 am

    Well done and said. Environmental and social justice groups are going to have to organize themselves and fight back.

    • 2012/03/31 10:42 am

      Thanks Barry. We are living in “interesting” times; it doesn’t feel like a blessing right now, but I’m hoping it will in hindsight.

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