Liberal budget promises $7B to 'champion' green initiatives
Meredith MacLeod, Special to CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, March 22, 2016 9:49PM EDT
The Liberal budget promises to ensure “Canada is once again a champion of clean growth” and “make a speedy transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Tuesday’s budget will spend $5 billion over the next five years on green investments in Canada's infrastructure, such as public transit and water and waste water systems, and $1.75 billion more over the next two years toward developing a clean economy and protecting the environment.
"Some believe we must choose between a strong economy and a clean environment. They are simply wrong," said Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his budget speech to Parliament.
“We are at a turning point in world history with the International Energy Agency reporting that the global economy has grown while global carbon emissions haven’t,” he said. “The IEA credits the widespread adoption of a clean energy. This is just a glimpse of the future; a future we want Canada to lead.”
The major chunk of funding will go to tackling the effects of climate change, reducing greenhouse emissions and crafting a national climate strategy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the Vancouver declaration earlier this month with premiers and territorial leaders. It includes a commitment to introduce a price on carbon.
There is also focus on research, innovation and job creation in the clean technology sector.
Among the highlights of the budget for the environment:
- $2.9 billion over the next five years to address climate change, including $518 million for local governments to upgrade infrastructure;
- $2 billion over two years for a low-carbon economy fund, beginning in 2017-18;
- $132.5 million over five years to research and develop clean technologies;
- $62.5 million over two years to build charging stations for electric vehicles and hydrogen and natural gas refuelling stations;
- $128.8 million over five years to retrofit buildings and to improve standards for vehicles and products;
- $142 million over five years to add national parks and provide free admission for all visitors in 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The investments were praised by environmental groups.
David Miller, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, said the budget is important both symbolically and in terms of action.
“The budget starts us on a really good path and it’s long overdue.”
He praised measures to tackle climate change, expand national parks and marine conservation areas, invest in renewable energy and better connect the country’s electricity grid.
He said the budget sets a priority on creating environment-friendly jobs in innovation, clean technology, conservation and energy retrofits.
The Liberal government has achieved a “tremendous shift” in its approach to the environment from the Harper government, said the former mayor of Toronto.
“This budget funds science and science had been cut quite terribly in the past decade.”
Clare Demerse, senior policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada, said the budget is a “good news story” for the economy and the environment.
“All this represents a welcome change of direction for Ottawa, but today’s budget also needs to be just the first chapter in a longer saga.”
But some environmental critics have pointed out the Liberals scaled back a plan to phase out fossil fuel subsidies to energy producers.