Monday, July 25, 2011

Conservatives Cut Budgets and Slash Jobs at Environment Canada

In addition to cuts at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the NRC the Conservatives are also taking the axe to Environment Canada. Over $200 million is being cut from Environment Canada's budget which is resulting in the loss of services and jobs. Amongst the people being let go are those involved in climate change research and those responsible for contaminated sites. These cuts will result in the elimination of 1211 jobs (full-time equivalents) over the next three years. The 50 employees cut in June, include people working in the areas of water and atmospheric science.

Environment Canada is the leading organization related to the country's environmental agenda. They are charged with  a number of responsibilities including environmental protection and natural heritage conservation. They also provide meteorological information and science that informs the nation's regulations and legislation.

Environment Canada collaborates on initiatives that are intended to protect the health of Canadians and the well being of the planet. They work to collect and share knowledge, and to develop, implement and enforce policies to prevent future environmental issues.

Environment Canada's Reports on Plans and Priorities from 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 reveals some deep cuts amounting to a reduction of more than $222 million from last year's total planned spending.

Some of the biggest cuts were in the program activities of climate change, clean air, substance and waste management, weather, environmental services and water resource protections. The programs that were cut this year include, the Clean Air Agenda and the Air Quality Health Index. The programs that will be cut next year include Species at Risk. Over the next few years cuts are expected to Biodiversity and the Chemicals Management Plan.

The Chemicals Management Program is managed jointly between Environment Canada and Health Canada. It ensures "timely action on key threats to health and the environment" and is responsible for "risk assessment, risk management, monitoring and surveillance, as well as research on chemicals which may be harmful to human health or the environment." The Chemicals Management Plan was intended to proactively reduce future costs associated with water treatment, clean-up of contaminated sites, and treating illnesses like cancer that are related to chemical exposure.

Funding was also reduced for the Action Plan on Clean Water and the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan. Last March, former Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the Action Plan on Clean Water was a priority. However, the government is going back on its word to provide clean water, just as it reneged on its commitment to improve environmental assessment.

Cuts to the Action Plan on Clean Water includes facets of the Oceans Action Plan, the Plan of Action for Drinking Water in First Nations Communities, clean-up funding for water bodies, wastewater regulations and water science. These cuts undermine Canada's ability to fulfill their legal obligation on the right to water.

Without consulting the public the federal government has cut programs that will have critical impacts on current as well as future generations.

With cuts to Environment Canada, the NRC, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, it is clear that Harper's Conservatives want to emasculate all the instruments of power that could undermine their bid to disregard the environment and make Canada a dirty energy superpower.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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