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"Although this budget has some pockets of green spending, overall it represents a missed opportunity for the government to position Canada as a leader in the green economy of the future. Contrast this with what our major trading partner, the U.S., is doing under President Barack Obama. President Obama just announced $55 billion in immediate green stimulus spending. Meanwhile, less than five per cent of Canada's budget is allocated to immediate green stimulus spending."

Peter Robinson, CEO, David Suzuki Foundation

Green Stimulus Measures in the 2009 Budget

The federal government continues to show a lukewarm approach to environmental spending, and it needs to pick up the pace to make sure Canadians aren't left behind. The biggest missed opportunity was for a green stimulus package that would lay the foundations for a greener economy. This represents a serious lack of imagination and innovation on the part of the federal government.

Like our neighbor to the south, Canada needs its own "green revolution", and right now we're only looking at half measures. This budget has a significant amount of government spending for harmful projects such as expanding highways that lead to long-term problems like urban sprawl, traffic congestion, harm to human health, and fractured wilderness areas.

Positive green stimulus measures in the 2009 budget include:

  • $1 billion was allocated over five years to research and develop green technologies to help Canada lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, just $200 million of that will be made available this year and millions of public dollars will subsidize the tar sands industry instead of ensuring that the industry is held accountable for the pollution it produces. According to the science, Canada's minimum targets for emission reductions should be set at 25 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020. The government's current targets will only decrease emissions by three per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. The only technology mentioned as a potential source of funding is not a green technology but rather "large-scale carbon capture and storage".
  • $407 million was committed over two years for passenger rail (VIA Rail). This will encourage travellers to commute in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • $300 million was dedicated over two years for home retrofits for energy efficiency. This incentive will help Canadians go green.
  • An undisclosed portion of $1 billion over two years will go to energy-efficiency retrofits for social housing.
  • $165 million was allocated over two years to complete drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure projects to address health and safety priorities in 18 First Nations communities across the country.
  • $80 million in increased funding over the next two years will go to manage and assess federal contaminated sites, facilitating remediation work totalling $165 million over two years.
  • $10 million goes to improving government reporting on key environmental indicators such as clean air, clean water, and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Toronto's Union Station, the crucial commuter hub for the Greater Toronto Area, will be revitalized. And the Evergreen Transit line in B.C. will receive federal funding.
  • The 2009 Federal Budget was a historical opportunity for the government to transform Canada's economy into a Green Economy. It contains small victories for the environment but leaves us questioning the government's willingness to make Canada a global leader in the new green economy.

Green Stimulus Measures Missing in Action in the 2009 Budget

The David Suzuki Foundation is concerned about the 2009 budget's missed opportunity to invest in protecting and restoring nature. Most notably, the government missed the chance to implement measures that would help Canada cap greenhouse gas emissions. Canada continues to lag behind the rest of the world in having a credible climate change plan.

Tackling these issues would have allowed Canada to achieve meaningful environmental progress and become a global leader in tomorrow's green economy.

The 2009 budget fails to meet the test of a green stimulus budget on several fronts, including:

  • No funding was committed to the government's renewable power program (ecoEnergy for Renewable Power Program), whose existing funds have been fully allocated. A similar U.S. program, already more generous, was extended for three years on January 26, 2009. The Canadian government has also refused to join the International Renewable Energy Association, sending a clear message to the wind, solar, and other clean-energy industries in Canada that they are not a priority. Expect renewable energy investments to flow to the U.S.
  • Some spending measures in the budget will move Canada further away from the clean-energy transition that is needed and will further entrench Canada's reliance on unsustainable and dirty sources of energy. The government is providing accelerated capital-cost allowance for investments in carbon capture and storage (CCS), on top of a substantial portion of the "Green Energy Economy" program funding that could go to CCS. Moreover, an additional $351 million (a one-year bump) will go toward Canada's nuclear energy program.
  • The 2009 budget missed an opportunity to make progress on key issues facing our oceans and freshwater ecosystems, at a time when industries and communities that depend on these ecosystems are facing significant challenges. For example, there is no marine planning money, no increase in environmental regulation enforcement, and no commitment to increase fisheries monitoring.
  • No funds are committed to restoring the "ecological integrity" of our parks. Funding for parks was provided, but these dollars are dedicated to buildings and road construction, not restoring or protecting the natural legacy of Canada's parks.
  • Billions of dollars are allocated to expanding roadways and bridges but not to expanding cycling and walking paths.
  • No green strings were attached to subsidies for the auto and forestry industries.
  • No money was allocated to shovel-ready wind-energy projects. This will likely result in wind-energy investments flowing to the U.S.

For more information contact:

Pierre Sadik
Senior Policy Advisor, David Suzuki Foundation
Cell: 613-799-8626

Dale Marshall
Climate Change Policy Analyst, David Suzuki Foundation
Cell: 613-302-9913

January 28, 2009