Budget 2013 Low on Substance, Silent on Climate Change

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s 2013 federal budget might be heavy on jobs, but critics say it’s light on detail and almost silent on climate change.

The only real mention of the issue of climate change in the 450-page Economic Action Plan comes in the form of a grant of $325 million over eight years to Sustainable Development Technology Canada "to continue support for the development and demonstration of new, clean technologies that create efficiencies for businesses and contribute to sustainable economic development.”

Clare Demerse of the Pembina Institute points out that the investment is less than half the amount “recommended by a coalition of environmental groups, including the Pembina Institute, but this long-term commitment is still good news for the more than 700 clean technology companies that Analytica Advisors estimates are operating in Canada today.”

Indeed, the budget presents a rather sunny description of last year’s controversial changes to environmental assessment and protection but doesn't provide any detail regarding how it plans to move forward. 

To maximize the value that Canada draws from our natural resources, Economic Action Plan 2012 introduced significant system-wide improvements to achieve the goal of ‘one project, one review’ in a clearly defined time period, streamlined the review process for major economic projects, enhanced consultation with Aboriginal peoples, and strengthened environmental protection and pipeline and marine safety.

One big loser in this year’s budget is Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which will suffer “targeted savings” rising to $33 million per year by 2015-2016. The budget promises to focus more on local organizations to take up the slack with budget hike of $10 million over two years. 

Policy critics Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write that the budget “like most of the budgets since 2006, is remarkable for its lack of vision and boldness. There is no narrative that sets out the longer-run economic and social challenges, and there is no discussion of how these challenges are interrelated.”

Clark and DeVries criticize the document’s “clear lack of transparency and accountability” and predict another omnibus bill like the one that introduced last year’s Bill C-45 and C-38, prompting nation-wide protests.

“When a budget says, ‘the government will introduce legislation as needed to consolidate operations and eliminate redundant organizations’ best to be nervous,” they say.

In his Huffington Post blog, Liberal leader Bob Rae called the budget a “political smoke screen, replete with gimmicks designed to convince Canadians that the Conservatives, somehow, are in fact balancing the books.”

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Elizabeth May told the CBC, “I want to see the final budget numbers, because this strange document doesn’t actually give us the budget. It doesn’t show us the base budget for departments. It doesn’t show us what happens to the bottom line, so announcements that are made are in something of a vacuum.”

Image credit: Joshua Sherurcij via Wikimedia

As a freelance writer, Erika Thorkelson is dedicated to showcasing compelling stories that illuminate our world and how we live.…

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