By Jonny Wakefield
March 20, 2014
Canada's environmental regulator is headed for lean times, according to its latest budget.
Environment Canada spending will shrink from $1.01 billion in the current fiscal year to $698.8 million in 2016-17, according to the department's 2014-15 Report on Plans and Priorities. While the government says most services will remain intact, critics worry the cuts will mean weaker environmental protections and an abridged attempt to address climate change.
Overall, the department plans to reduce full time equivalent (FTE) employees from 6,400 to 5,348 within four years. Environment Canada's responsibilities are grouped into three broad categories: conserving and restoring the environment, informing Canadians about weather and changing climate and minimizing pollution. Most will see spending cuts on a program by program basis. Among the biggest losers in the budget were climate and clean air programs, which would see spending cut from $234.2 million in 2014 to $54.8 million in 2016-17, the Toronto Star reports.
The opposition New Democrats said the budget showed the Conservative government was "giving up" on its commitments to curb carbon emissions. “They’ve given up on [the environment] file. They’ve given up with their actions, they’ve given up on the programs that they do have, and now they’re giving up funding it and staffing it with people,” NDP environment critic Megan Leslie told the Star.
Not so, the government claims. Many reductions in spending were temporary programs expiring, a spokesperson from Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq's office told the Star. Whether a particular program would continue past its "sunset" date would be considered case-by-case, the ministry said.
"Sunsetting programs are subject to government decisions to extend, reduce, or enhance funding," the report states. "Outcomes of such decisions would be reflected in the Department’s future Budget exercises and Estimates documents.”