Details of last month's budget bill and our new approach to auto emissions are now out, and it's clear that Canada's Conservatives are continuing their whishy-washy but effective attack on our environmental policies and programs. The government has announced that it will be following the USA in implementing a national policy based on California Auto emissions standards. This just months after the Environment Minister ridiculed Quebec for adopting identical standards. Overall though, that's a good thing and not a surprise.
What is a surprise is that it will be effectively canning the ecoENERGY home retrofit program, and will savage our national Environmental Impact Assessment Process. No new applications will be accepted for ecoEnergy's $5,000 grants. Despite adding an extra $80million for the program just weeks ago, the government is arguing that there is only enough money to cover homeowners already enrolled in the project. I hope we see some scrutiny of those numbers over the next few days.
But regardless, scrapping the program wastes a fantastic opportunity to make necessary common-sense home efficiency measures affordable to average Canadians. It's not the first time though. One of the first things that the Conservatives did when they first got into office in 2006 was to scrap a similar Liberal program, starting with funds earmarked for low-income families. They later brought the program back, with a lower budget and no provisions to help poorer Canadian (who can't afford the upfront costs of renovations) access the money.
But what is happenning to EIAs is worse. In the last 24 hours it has become public that the government plans to decimate the environmental impact assessment process. The Globe has the deails here. The thing that is most disturbing to me though is the way in which all this is being done. Since when is a budget the proper vehicle to push through this type of change? The government knows full well that the other parties don't want to trigger an election and they are using the budget to force completely undemocratic changes to government policies.
I'd say that even if we've got serious fiscal and environmental deficits, Canada's most worrying deficit is a democratic one.