On Monday, the Conservatives handed down the 2007 federal budget. To little surprise, the Tory platform continued to side step the issue of climate change despite the increasingly urgent calls of the world community, environmentalists, scientists, economists and Canadians.
The Green Budget Coalition, a representative group of 20 top environmental organizations, also panned the Conservative's lack of climate change commitment. They did however, highlight the following positive announcements for the environment:
- $110 million for more effective protection of species at risk
- $10 million for protected areas in the Northwest Territories
- $225 million for conserving ecologically sensitive private lands
- The creation of nine new marine protected areas
- $300 million for administering the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
Also of note is that the Conservatives announced an end to federal subsidies in the tar sands (but not until 2015), and they are encouraging fuel-efficient vehicles by charging a carbon tax on new gas-guzzling automobiles and providing a rebate on highly efficient cars. Good steps, but meanwhile they're strategy on global warming still hinges on intensity based targets that allow industry greenhouse gas emissions to continue to rise into the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Harper and company continue to ignore the ongoing threat of global warming, and the fact that it is this single issue that is gavlanizing public attention and a rising environmental awareness among Canadians.
A stronger proposal came before the weekend from Liberal Leader Stephane Dion. Dion proposes hard caps on greenhouse gases and fines for all sectors of Canadian industry in a plan custom tailored to bring Canadian greenhouse gas emissions down to responsible levels. Most importantly, it highlighted what are in fact the small costs associated with doing this - just a $1/barrel cost increase for the oil sands in particular. In a market that sees oil prices range between the $50 - $70, this is no cost to pay for protecting the Earth's climate.
That is a message voters need to remember come next election.