Environment put into deep freeze
Feds cut funding to department overseeing wildlife
By ALAN FINDLAY -- Sun Media
The Ottawa Sun
Environmentalists and opposition party critics are blasting a broad spending freeze quietly imposed on several Environment Canada programs just five months into the fiscal year.
"We're quite shocked," said Sandy Baumgartner, executive director of programs for the Canadian Wildlife Federation. "I'm not sure how you run out of money in September."
According to CBC reports, the federal department severely cut funding to programs monitoring ecosystems and migratory bird populations. It has eliminated the $1.9-million budget for the National Wildlife Areas program protecting significant habitats after running out of money. Several sources and outside agencies have since suggested that a spending freeze could be virtually across the departmental board.
An Environment Canada spokesman acknowledged in an e-mail that department programs are regularly reviewed to ensure "priority services and programs are adequately funded."
"The government has invested $9 billion on environmental priorities since 2006," stated Gregory Jack, director of ministerial services.
But Sierra Club of Canada's national campaigns director Jean Langlois said the government approach simply means abandoning its own species-at-risk law.
"The government is saying the environment is not a priority, period," said Langlois.
Ducks Unlimited met with senior officials at Environment Canada earlier this week to discuss the issue and were assured it was simply a temporary freeze.
"Their intent is to re-profile programs, and the end result is more money on the ground for conservation," said Ducks Unlimited's manager of conservation partnerships Pat Kehoe. "They've given us assurance this is a short-term pain and the government of Canada will be maintaining its lead role in waterfowl and wetlands conservation at the national level."
Liberal party environment critic David McGuinty called the reported cuts astonishing.
He said Environment Minister John Baird has spent too much time and money campaigning against the Kyoto Accord rather than focussing on his department's important programs.
"At a time we should be investing, they're cutting," said McGuinty.
I think it's obvious where the Conservative government's priorities lie, and they're much more in step with the US Bush Administration and Big Business than they are with the mandates of many of the other world's governments as well as the Canadian public.