Canada 'to cut climate funds'

Posted: 18 April 2006

Canada's new Conservative government is to make deep cuts in spending to combat global warming in order to fund tax cuts, according to cabinet documents obtained by the Canadian media.

The documents obtained by Canadian Television (CTV) and The Globe and Mail show that the government will slash spending on Environment Canada programmes designed to fight global warming by 80 per cent - and the savings will help fund a Tory campaign promise of tax breaks for people who buy passes for public transport.

The text reveals that the tax break promise would cost $1 billion. However, the documents also show the government has no evidence the plan will increase ridership or help the environment.

"A wide range of data suggests that people are not very responsive to changes in transit fares," said a memo prepared for Environment Minister Rona Ambrose last week by officials in the office of her deputy minister.

". . . while the ridership impacts of the tax incentives are not known with precision, analysis suggests they will be low."

Climate Fund

The benefits to transit users may be invalidated, the memo states, because "it could be quite easy for the transit authorities to raise their fares to absorb the benefit of the tax credit" -- thus leaving no benefit to people who ride the buses, subways and trains.

Programmes the Conservatives plan to chop to fund the tax break include:

  • The $250 million dollar Climate Change Fund for renewable energy;

  • Scientific and research programmes; and The One-Tonne Challenge programme that asks Canadians to reduce their use of fossil fuels.

Ryan Sparrow, a spokesperson for Ambrose, refused to confirm or deny the details in the leak. "Once there is an announcement to be made, we'll make one," Sparrow told The Globe.

The documents bolster previous claims that large-scale cuts to climate-change programs are planned, and further reveal that while spending cuts are expected, staff positions will be retained.

Kyoto targets

The cuts drew fire from environmentalists such as John Bennett, a spokesman for the Sierra Club of Canada, who accused the Tories of having a "slash and burn campaign."

The details from the leak were published one day after Climate Action Network Canada made public its accusations the government plans to cut funding to climate change programs.

David Coon, policy director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, encouraged the government to make the fight against climate change a priority.

"Canadians need a vision of hope in the face of the frightening consequences of rapid climate change," Coon said at the press conference on Wednesday. "For that hope they look to their government, and their expectations are high."

Canada's Kyoto targets were set in 1997, but Ambrose recently said they were unrealistic and dismissed any hope that the goal of reducing Canada's emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels could be reached by 2012.

Citing unpublished government figures, Ambrose said emissions are up by almost 30 per cent since 1990. She said the increase is "very disconcerting," but said Canada is not alone in its situation.

The Climate Action Network is encouraging Canadians to contact their MPs, the prime minister, and local media to voice their opposition to the alleged plan.

Source:CTV April 12, 2006