The Canadian Federal Government used the 2012 budget, released March 29, 2012, as a means of slashing jobs and funding for environmental laws and programs in Canada.
Before budget legislation was released, leaked documents indicated the federal government would use the budget to gut protections for fish habitat, and weaken long-standing Candian environmental laws. The British Columbia (BC) Assembly of First Nations, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, more than 600 scientists, and countless Canadians wrote to Stephen Harper urging him to keep environmental laws in place.
Yet the budget indicates habitat provisions in the Fisheries Act will be removed.
Also, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) reviews will be limited to: 24 months for panel reviews of major projects and 12 months for standard environmental assessments. This condensed timeline will also apply retroactively to the 11 projects currently undergoing review: including the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
"Environmental assessments need to be thorough, consultative and science-based." said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada. "Creating hard-time limits and rushing the process compromises all these things."
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) is in line for a 40% cut in funding. Cuts in spending were also made to Environment Canada (6%) and Parks Canada (4%).
The National Round Table on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE) has been eliminated for an annual savings of $5.2 million. The NRTEE, established in the 1990s under Brian Mulroney, is a key federal advisory panel on business and environmental issues that produces numerous reports about business, natural resources, government policy and climate change.
The federal government provided the Canada Revenue Agency with $8 million over two years to fund "education and compliance activities with respect to political activities by charities". Charities can currently devote up to 10% of their charitable resources to non-partisan political advocacy that is part of the charity's overall purpose. Charities will also have to provide more information on their activities, including the extent of foreign funding.
The budget also provides $50 million over two years to support the legal obligation to protect species at risk.
View March 22, 2012 Letter from Canadian Scientists to Prime Minister Harper (PDF)
View March 22, 2012 Vancouver Observer article
View April 2, 2012 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report
View March 29, 2012 Sierra Club of Canada press release
View March 29, 2012 Canadian Environmental Law Association press release
View March 29, 2012 West Coast Environmental Law Association Myths & Realities: Budget and Environmental Laws (PDF)
View March 28, 2012 Ecojustice press release
View Envirolawmatters.ca Environmental Assessment page
View Ecojustice Fisheries Act backgrounder
View Government of Canada Budget 2012 page