By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News February 29, 2012
$90.3 million will focus on policy, publicity
The federal government is adding millions of dollars in new spending to sup-port its "clean air agenda" and boost Canada's environmental reputation on the world stage, while dramatically decreasing funding to clean up industrial development projects, according to estimates tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons.
The projections do not include potential spending cuts anticipated across federal departments in the upcoming bud-get, but reveal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the government centre of expertise for ensuring that industrial projects do not harm natural ecosystems, is already expected to see its funding reduced by 43 per cent from about $30 million last year to about $17 million in 2012-13.
The decrease includes a reduction of $2.2 million in funding for consultations with aboriginal groups and funding to help citizens do research and preparations to participate effectively in an environmental assessment process.
In the meantime, the government is adding $90.3 mil-lion at Environment Canada to support what it describes as its "clean air agenda."
This would provide resources for potential regulations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from industry as part of the federal government's climate-change policies. But the information in the spending estimates also said the money would be "providing a platform to deepen engagement with the United States on climate-change issues and enhancing Canada's visibility as an inter-national leader in clean-energy technology."
"At this stage, without knowing what that money is intended for, it's hard to know the impact that it will have," said Gillian McEachern, deputy campaign director at Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based conservation group.
"If it means the government is going to beef up efforts to put in place rules around greenhouse-gas emissions, then that's a positive step.
"If it means the government is going to use it to beef up its ongoing public relations campaign in Europe and the U.S. to try to convince other countries that Canada's tarsands are being cleaned up, then that's a bad investment for taxpayers."
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