Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An absence of green

A few weeks back in the comments to this post, one Tory commenter planned to come back and offer a defence of Harper's environmental plan once the budget was released. (And in terms of the Cons' loyalty to Harper that should say a lot, given that he didn't have any idea what he was committing himself to answering.) But I wonder if that plan has changed now that the budget is out, and limited to a tiny list of environmental priorities (see p. 115-117):

- $400 million (plus $900 million contingent on a year-end surplus) for capital investment in public transit nationwide;
- the individual transit tax credit, which by all accounts is far more efficient as a vote-buying scheme than an emissions-reduction scheme; and
- $10-20 million in corporate tax breaks for a form of bioenergy.

In other words, reducing emissions in any industry besides forestry doesn't even register as a priority. And neither does reducing individual emissions from any other source besides vehicles. If that's the Cons' "made in Canada" plan to reduce emissions, then frankly it's about time to see what can be imported to do the job better.

Amazingly enough, in the Con view, that's apparently more than enough environmental action for one budget. One can arguably classify the pine-beetle funding (p. 86) and the Ecological Gifts Program (p. 231) as potentially having environmental benefits as well, but the former is explicitly lumped in with all other aid to the forestry sector, while the latter is referred to only as a tax measure. From the Cons' classification of these initiatives it's pretty clear that the environment isn't their primary concern in including them, and in any event any environmental benefit is speculative at best.

With that little by way of new ideas, one would think the Cons would at least refer to the plans which already existed and were rumoured to be cut. But from what I can tell, there's no mention of funding for previously-existing emission reduction programs - which makes it unclear whether any or all of what progress had ever been made has been completely undermined.

In other words, the Cons don't have much by way of new ideas, and don't even appear to acknowledge the existence of existing environmental plans. And even the Cons' claim that the environment would be a top priority this fall seems rather empty when the government has suggested that it will be completely reworking federal/provincial relations at the same time.

In that context, does anybody still want to try to defend the Cons' environmental plan? Or can we all agree that at least to date, Harper has a black thumb when it comes to environmental issues?

(Edit: typo.)

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