Prime Minister Steven Harper’s ruling Conservative government is using their majority to all but eliminate Canada’s environmental protections. On March 29, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released a federal budget which guts environmental legislation. It is tragically ironic that this anti-environment budget comes only one week after record-breaking temperatures in the National Capital Region.
Under the new budget Environment Canada will be cut by $88 million. Parks Canada will be cut by $6 million this year and rise to $29 million in 2014/15. Environmental reviews for major oil, gas and mining projects will be shortened and some of these reviews will be handed entirely to the provinces.
Activists are upset about pension reform, job losses, social spending cuts and of course the enviroment. Canadians have protested from the House of Commons gallery chanting, “This is not our budget! Where are we in your budget?” before being detained and later released by Hill Security.
Canadians opposed to the Harper government’s austerity measures are rallying around the slogan Not Our Budget, and issued a press release coinciding with the action on Parliament Hill. The two paramount issues for this group is the “gutting of environmental legislation” and cutting “services for First Nations education and health.”
Despite the opposition from aboriginal people, the federal budget tries to sell projects like the environmentally destructive Northern Gateway pipeline as being benefitial to First Nations. The truth is that accelerated environmental assessment related to oil and gas and uranium is part of the problem not the solution.
This Conservative government has a deplorable environmental record, in fact it is one of the worst developed countries in the world. In addition to undermining UN climate negotiations, Harper’s Conservatives have defended big oil’s interests at every turn and they have lobbied the US and EU on behalf of the tar sands.
Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre said the budget, “seems to have been written for, and even by, big oil interests, the Harper government is gutting the environmental protections that Canadians have depended on for decades to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems.”
While President Barack Obama is working to end oil subsidies in the US, Prime Minister Harper is searching out new markets for the tar sands and other Canadian resources. It is no coincidence that Harper is pitching lowered domestic environmental standards to markets that share Canada’s lax environmental review policies.