The Green Budget Coalition (GBC) brings together 16 of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organizations. Its goal is to present an analysis of the most pressing environmental sustainability issues in Canada and make an annual set of recommendations to the federal government regarding strategic fiscal and budgetary opportunities to address these issues. On Nov. 21, 2012, the GBC released its recommendations for the 2013 federal budget. Here’s an overview of these recommendations.
The GBC report has four key recommendations:
1) Subsidy Reform in the Extractive Industries. The GBC has advocated for a number of years for the federal budget to remove tax expenditures to the fossil fuel extraction industry and the government has taken some steps to reduce such subsidies. But the GBC says there are opportunities for additional steps, such as:
- Enabling Canadian Exploration Expenses only for unsuccessful exploration instead of letting companies deduct 100% of their exploration expenses from their income taxes each year;
- Removing accelerated capital cost allowance for the mining sector (this has already been phased out for the oil sands sector); and
- Not renewing the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for flow-through shares in mining.
2) National Conservation Plan. The GBC recommends that Canada’s National Conservation Plan focus on scaling up efforts to value and conserve nature for the benefit of current and future generations and ensuring that all parties work together in a coordinated way to achieve this goal. Specifically, it suggests that the federal government focus on:
- Completing connected networks of large core protected areas of habitat in all regions of the country, on land and in the ocean, and ensuring that these areas are managed to protect their long-term ecological integrity;
- Implementing world-class standards for the sustainable use of natural resources;
- Helping private citizens safeguard critical ecological values on the working landscape and supporting other tools such as conservation land purchases and restrictive covenants;
- Completing ecosystem-based land and marine planning in all regions to proactively facilitate nature conservation and sustainable development;
- Ensuring strong federal laws and policies are in place that value and conserve nature, provide consistently high standards and serve as a backstop to provincial and territorial laws, including those for recovering species at risk, environmental assessments and conserving fish and wildlife populations and habitat; and
- Connecting Canadians with nature in a way that supports both healthy ecosystems and healthy people.
3) Strengthening Canada’s Environmental Law and Science Capacity. To ensure that Canada’s environmental laws and science capacity continue to be effective, the GBC recommends that Budget 2013 strengthen the enforcement and implementation of the country’s environmental laws by:
- Investing new funds to establish a comprehensive, web-accessible and continually updated database of all federal environmental enforcement and compliance data; and
- Financially supporting the provinces and territories to ensure they can effectively deliver these laws, where intergovernmental arrangements have been adopted.
It also encourages the federal government to affirm the importance of existing environmental laws and science capacity by committing to:
- Preserve current federal environmental science capacity; and
- Ensure that any proposed changes to environmental laws are reviewed by the most relevant House of Commons committee(s).
4) Green Infrastructure in First Nations Communities. The GBC believes there are major opportunities to benefit First Nations communities by integrating green infrastructure thinking into the programs and policies that are needed for planning, building, updating and repairing infrastructure in these communities. Its primary recommendation is to invest in First Nations:
- Water and wastewater systems;
- Energy efficiency, both residential and non-residential; and
- Reduced diesel fuel use via green energy.
Insider Says: The GBC report also includes additional recommendations on ares such as climate change, sustainable energy and electric vehicles.
The GBC supports the government’s recent progress in areas including conservation, subsidy reform, fresh water and green infrastructure for First Nations communities. But it says additional efforts are needed. Thus, the GBC strongly believes that its “recommendations will be invaluable for providing Canadians with a healthy environment, a thriving, sustainable economy and the opportunity to live healthy lives.”