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The 2012 Federal and Ontario Budgets and the Environment

The following summary of the environmental implications of the 2012 Federal and Ontario Budgets draws on the work of Chris Winter of the Conservation Council of Ontario ( http://www.weconserve.ca/cco/) as well as environmental lawyer Diane Saxe

More commentary from me to follow soon.

The Ontario 2012 Budget

2012 Deficit: $16 billion
Provincial Debt: $242 billion

Ontario actions:

  • Environment and Natural Resources budgets are two of only three ministries to be cut (p.195).
  •  the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit, a $1 billion electricity consumption incentive, is being phased out for major consumers over 3,000 kWh per month for a savings of around $100 million per year (p. 48)
  •  transportation and environmental fees may be increased (p.103 ff)
  •  many environmentally significant laws that are administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources are proposed to be amended, including the Endangered Species Act, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Public Lands Act, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act.
  • Moving what remains of the Drive Clean program to a Delegated Administrative Agency similar to the TSSA .
  • Eliminating the funding to municipalities for household hazardous waste management that was covering the funding lost as a result of the government's cancellation of the Stewardship Ontario 'eco-fee' program in 2009
  • Funding for municipal sustainable water planning under the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act, 2010 is being cancelled as the regulations requiring the development of plans have yet to be adopted.

It is what is not in the budget that is most important:

  • no detail on investments in refurbishing or new builds for nuclear power plants and their impact on stranded debt
  •  little detail on conservation programs within the electricity sector
  •  little detail on green infrastructure, including urban renewal
  •  little detail on incentives for local and green economic development.

With files from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.

The Federal 2012 Budget

2012 Deficit: $25 billion

National Debt: $580 billion

Federal actions:

  • further cuts to core Canadian environmental programs, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada
  • environmental assessments are to be streamlined to two years max, including for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.
  •  the National Round Table on Environment and Economy is axed. The NRTEE was recently asked to review all provincial climate change strategies.
  • $8 million in new funding to audit charities to ensure they are not "politically active," i.e. that they do not speak out against the government's mismanagement of the environment.
  •  failed to renew the federal ecoENERGY Retrofit - Homes program, which provided much-needed incentives for home energy conservation.

More positively, it looks like the budget does not include rumoured amendments to the Fisheries Act to weaken its fish habitat protection provisions (s.35). The Conservatives may have realized that the proposal, floated a few weeks ago, not only outraged environmentalists, but also sport hunters and fishers, who are also often Conserative voters in rural Canada.

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