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  • Kate McInturff Fellowship in Gender Justice September 19, 2018
    The CCPA is pleased to announce the creation of the Kate McInturff Fellowship in Gender Justice.This Fellowship is created to honour the legacy of senior researcher Kate McInturff who passed away in July 2018. Kate was a feminist trailblazer in public policy and gender-based research and achieved national acclaim for researching, writing, and producing CCPA’s […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The buck-a-beer challenge Ontario deserves September 6, 2018
    Ricardo Tranjan proposes an alternate plan to Doug Ford's buck-a-beer challenge in the Toronto Star.
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Growing number of professionals face job insecurity, study finds September 6, 2018
    The Toronto Star's Sara Mojtehedzadeh discusses the findings of the CCPA Ontario's report, No Safe Harbour and gathers firsthand accounts from precariously employed professionals who live and work in Ontario.
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Our Schools/Our Selves: The view from West Virginia September 4, 2018
    Our latests publication, Lesson Here, digs in to the West Viriginia teachers' strike.  Read the firsthand accounts of the work stoppage here.
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • What do the two largest mining disasters in Canada's and Brazil's history have in common? August 20, 2018
    Tailings dam spills at Mount Polley and Mariana: Chronicles of disasters foretold  explores the many parallels between the tailings dam spills at the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia, Canada, and the Samarco mine in Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The Mount Polley disaster took place in August 2014, when the dam holding toxic waste from […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

A budget that screws the planet for short-term profits

First off, the 2012 federal budget makes no upfront claim to be a budget. Indeed, the cover states only “Economic Action Plan 2012: Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity.” While we have been accustomed in recent years to budgets with their own titles, this one does not actually say “Budget” anywhere. This makes it more a framework economic document that includes gutting of environmental assessment in the name of the economy.

This is a colonial vision of the economy as a quarry for foreign interests. Instead of ensuring development of resources in a manner consistent with real long-term needs like energy security, the country is to open to any foreign investor who wants our resources, and Canadians will politely have to clean up the mess afterwards. While there will be some Canadian jobs in all of this, most of them will be of short duration in the construction phase, but the budget also increases the capacity to bring in temporary foreign workers.

This is known in the budget as “responsible resource development.” This perverse label includes putting hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – pretty much the opposite of being responsible.

Our penchant for planetary destruction just cannot happen fast enough. Under the mantra “one project, one review” environmental considerations will get lumped in with everything else, meaning that review processes for destructive mining and oil and gas projects will be fast-tracked. On p. 96, the six projects highlighted as “major economic projects” that will benefit from consolidated review — three oil and gas pipelines, a gold mine and a uranium mine — are indicative of the government’s priorities. The Major Projects Office currently has 70 projects on file, and the budget forsees 500 projects over the coming decade.

The document is full of euphoric exaggeration — the assertion, for instance, that “oils sands … generate wealth that benefits all Canadians.” The document then sternly adds that “Canadians will only reap the benefits that come from our natural resources if investments are made by the private sector to bring the resources to market” (emphasis added). Yet, the logic gets tied up in knots, as the pushing of the success story of resource development contrasts with claims that companies are facing “an increasingly complicated web of rules and bureaucratic reviews that have grown over time, adding costs and delays that can deter investors and undermine the economic viability of major projects.”

As for “jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” unfortunately, there are few jobs in the resource sector areas under consideration (mostly mining and oil and gas projects) and other measures to facilitate the import of temporary foreign workers. As for “long-term”, this measure is focused on very short-term liquidation of Canadian resources for hefty profits but that imperil people in other countries and in the future.

One interesting note is a commitment to “rationalizing inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by phasing out tax preferences for resource industries.” It turns out this was a 2009 G-20 commitment, and Canada’s “implementation” is misleading at best. The first part of it came last year when Budget 2011 phased out preferences for oil sands producers relative to conventional oil (just as conventional oil is dwindling). In Budget 2012, an investment tax credit for oil and gas development specific to Atlantic Canada is being phased out (apparently worth $0 in budget terms) as is a mineral exploration and development tax credit (worth a measly $10 million per year and well offset by other tax cuts and deregulation lavished on the industry). These are token gestures compared to the grand commitment on “rationalizing fossil fuel subsidies.”

In terms of dollars, protecting the environment is also taking a hit as part of overall spending cuts (see other posts by David MacDonald, Armine Yalnizyan, Andrew Jackson and Toby Sanger). Environment Canada will get cut by $20 million in 2012/13 rising to $88 million in 2014/15 (an 8% cut). Parks Canada gets a $6 million cut this year, rising to $29 million in 2014/15.

The National Roundtable on the Economy and the Environment (NRTEE) has been scrapped, ostensibly because of an “expanded community of environmental stakeholders has demonstrated the capacity to provide analysis and policy advice to the Government.” Unless they get funds from foreign radicals, apparently. The NRTEE was one of the few federal voices that have acknowledged the challenge of climate change in a series of reports, while calling for action to reduce emissions, studying measures of doing so (such as carbon pricing) and making estimates of anticipated climate-related damages to the Canadian economy in future years. Their contributions clearly were not welcome in “don’t ask, don’t tell” Ottawa, and will be missed.

Small note: there is a $2 million provision for accelerated capital cost treatment of clean energy generation, targeted at biomass.

The term “climate” appears four times in the budget. Twice there is a passing reference to climate change, but really an afterthought. The other two times are in reference to investment climate.

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