Reality-checking the Feds’ “eco-friendly” budget

Budget 2015 has done more for the environment than any previous budget, according to Conservative Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Who's she trying to kid? We put her bold statement to the test.

Promised $2 million in 2015 to the Pacific Salmon Foundation to support the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.

Reality Throwing cash at a project to investigate why wild salmon in BC’s Salish Sea are dying is a bit like sticking your finger in the dike, since the federal government gutted the Fisheries Act in 2012 and slashed $100 million (and 500 jobs) from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2013. 

Promised $10 million a year for three years, starting in 2016, to extend the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Program.

Reality Great window-dressing to share with true blues who love their Muskoka fishing. Dovetails nicely with the feds’ 2012 reg changes that left only fish of recreational and commercial value protected from toxic dumping and only the busiest 1 per cent of lakes and rivers protected under the revamped Navigation Act. The other 99 per cent? Up shit creek. 

Promised $491.8 million over five years starting in 2016 to renew the Chemicals Management Plan.

Reality There’s a reason the Chemicals Management Plan gets significantly more money than other environmental initiatives: it’s got nothing to do with climate change or the tar sands (so far anyway – we’re still waiting on the CMP to get tough on petrol industry chems). Still, maybe the cash will help speed the phasing out of toxins like triclosan.

Promised $750 million over two years and $1 billion a year ongoing thereafter for a “new and innovative” Public Transit Fund.

Reality Sounds impressive, but it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to meeting national transit needs. Case in point: Ontario will be spending nearly $50 billion on transit for the GTHA alone. Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart calls this “repackaged gas tax money.” Plus, it comes with sticky public-private partnership strings and doesn’t kick in for another two years. 

Promised $34 million over five years for environmental assessments, starting in 2015.

Reality This money isn’t for those doing the assessing, but for the poor resource extraction corporations that really could use another subsidy to help them pay for burdensome environmental studies of their projects. 

Promised $80 million for the National Energy Board “for safety and environmental protection and greater engagement with Canadians.”

Reality Harper will have to dump a lot of cash on PR consultants alone for this notoriously industry-friendly oil and gas pipeline construction regulator. Just last week, six BC mayors, including the mayor of Vancouver, wrote a declaration of non-confidence in the current NEB process.

Promised Zero for climate change action.

Reality The word “climate” appears once in budget documents, and that was related to splicing tree genes so they’re better at adapting to “a changing climate.” That’s it. Days after the budget was released and Environment Canada revealed that the country’s greenhouse gas emissions keep climbing, Harper told reporters it’s unlikely Canada will match American greenhouse gas reduction targets. He’s clearly not budgeting for much of a future. | @ecoholicnation

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