Photo: Budget 2016 contains many small steps but no large leap for the environment

(Credit: Morgan via Flickr)

By Alvin Singh, David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager

The David Suzuki Foundation welcomed today's federal budget as the first in almost a decade that seriously commits funding to climate change and clean energy, habitat conservation and a healthy environment.

After nearly a decade of federal budgets that pitted the environment against the economy, it is refreshing to see a budget that acknowledges a prosperous Canada depends on healthy ecosystems and a transition to a clean economy. At the same time, we're concerned that the level of investment doesn't match the urgency of the environmental challenges Canada faces.

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Leadership on clean energy and climate change

Although total investment in public transit infrastructure is not what we hoped it would be, the commitment to fund up to 50 per cent of project costs shows federal leadership. The David Suzuki Foundation believes the best way to build healthy and sustainable communities is through more robust investment in public transit infrastructure.

Highlights include:

  • $3.4 billion for public transit over three years, starting in 2016-17.
  • $62.5 million over two years to support the deployment of infrastructure for alternative transportation fuels

Conserving and protecting critical habitat

Though this budget moves us in the right direction in ocean science and conservation, it fails to provide adequate funding to meet targets based on Green Budget Coalition recommendations.

Highlights include:

  • $81.3 million over five years to support marine conservation activities and $197.1 million over five years to increase ocean and freshwater science, monitoring and research activities.

The budget didn't contain all of the funding for the environment that we recommended through the Green Budget Coalition. The lack of an announcement on carbon pricing and the missed opportunity to phase out fossil fuel subsidies leave a lot of questions unanswered.

We were, however, encouraged to see some funding allocated to climate change adaptation, transit and ocean conservation. Also promising is that the government reversed cuts to scientific research and monitoring, reinstated the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station and restored funding for the Experimental Lakes Area water research facility.

We are also happy to see the prime minister follow through with his election promise to ensure Indigenous communities have clean, safe drinking water. All Canadians should have access to clean drinking water, and it was unconscionable that so many communities in Canada faced long-term boil-water advisories.

March 22, 2016

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Mar 28, 2016
2:56 PM

Anger at the Harper government for neglecting the environment for the past decade is, in itself, not enough to meet the urgent need for action by the Trudeau government. While concern over the global effects of climate change has been recognized by Trudeau, his failure to begin phasing out fossil fuel subsidies indicates a lack of conviction that is needed to follow up on his leadership at the recent global climate change conference.

Words are encouraging, but action is needed. The phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies would not only signal Canada’s commitment to building a green economy, but would also be a fiscally responsible way of recovering funds that could then be added to the infrastructure funding.

Mar 28, 2016
10:12 AM

Thanks for keeping us updated on the progress in the environmental font. With the new government in office at least Canada is not the Grinch of the world. During the last one decade Canada was the spoiler in all of the international summits.

Mar 28, 2016
9:22 AM

Thank you for this update. I agree no progress on phasing out subsidies on Fossil is hugely disappointing for climate reasons and for the burden it places tax payers for no benefit. I would also add that there are no cost things the Federal Government could do to mitigate, reduce or eliminate effects of climate shift. The greatest opportunity I believe comes from a review of The Municipal Act. I believe some thoughtful changes to this federal act specifically around mayor (council) and developer relationship before, during and after elections and terms would be very helpful. Our fresh water and agricultural resources are under constant development pressure and many municipalities are acting against the will of the majority of residents based on questionable economic ‘studies’ and developer marketing materials. I am not suggesting an Omnibus bill. No thank you. Just a way of making things less about money and more about relationship — with each other, our world and our continuity. With gratitude for your effort and courage.

Mar 28, 2016
8:48 AM

It’s now up to civil society to persuade our federal representatives to do more for our environment. I’m particularly concerned that subsidies to fossil fuel companies hasn’t been phased out, and that a carbon tax hasn’t been implemented.

Mar 28, 2016
8:43 AM

The most serious omission is the removal of subsidies for fossil fuels. It negates some of the initiative for green energy production. What incentive is there for the fossil fuel industry to turn their considerable expertise, infrastructure and capital to alternative energy when they continue to receive subsidies for the status quo? The left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing never was a good situation.

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