The Canadian Conservatives are fiddling as the world mobilizes to act on climate change. On Tuesday April 21, the federal Conservatives unveiled their 2015 budget. The 500 page long document did not mention climate change once. While described by many as the most important challenge in human history, the government of Stephen Harper appears to have its head firmly stuck in the ground.
As we head towards COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year, mention of emissions reduction is nowhere to be found among Conservative spending initiatives. Neither are the issues of sustainability and renewable energy both of which are excluded in the Conservative budget. There is exactly 0 new dollars earmarked for investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation, clean energy, air quality, nature conservation, marine protection and an environmental health equity agenda. Even the $300 million Green Climate Fund pledge that was promised last year was not mentioned in the budget.
Although Canadians want environmental protections none are forthcoming in the 2015 budget. According to a poll from the Suzuki Foundation, “98 per cent of Canadians believe nature is essential to our survival and 64 per cent say government should enforce strong standards for environmental protection.”
Investing in public transit is a key initiative that can reduce national emissions. However, the 2015 budget contains a grossly inadequate $250 million public transit investment that will not start until 2017. An additional $500 million is earmarked for public transit in 2018-19. Canada remains the only OECD country without a national transit strategy.
The vast majority (82 percent) of the $35.7 billion the government plans to spend on Canadians and their communities is focused on tax breaks. Once again the Tories show that they are more interested in helping Canadians who need it least at the price of those who need it most. Two examples include doubling the TFSA and introducing income splitting.
Although there is very little good news, determined digging unearths a few relative bright spots in an otherwise dismal 2015 budget. This includes the Chemicals Management Plan, the implementation of the Species at Risk Act, Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan and support for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency consultation with Canadians.
Even if you disregard climate science, the Conservative budget has troubling economic implications. As the world moves towards clean energy the Harper government continues its perilous fossil fuel powered trajectory. We have already seen the evidence of the costs of the nation’s fossil fuel obsession on the Canadian economy. However, the Conservatives do not appear to have learned any of the lessons from plummeting fossil fuel prices.
Nations around the world see the promise of the green economy but not Canada’s ruling federal Conservatives. The green economy train is leaving the station and Canada is not onboard.