Letter to Minister of Environment, Peter Kent
Dear Minister Kent,
As a young Canadian working hard to make my country and my world a better place, I find myself increasingly concerned about the trajectory of environmental protection in Canada. I was optimistic and hopeful following the speech from the throne in June, and guarantees made at the UNFCCC meeting in Bonn this year – Canada seemed on track, and committed to making environmental protection a top priority, at least over the next four years. However, I’m a big proponent of “actions speak louder than words”, Mr. Kent, and recent actions by the federal government have tarnished the optimistic shine I try to maintain for the future. While I fully understand the need to trim the fat in government to maintain the economic recovery, some of the most affected sectors seem like those least capable of maintaining efficacy and responsibility following large cutbacks. Cutting jobs and funding to Environment Canada, particularly to those in the Department carrying out the basic climate science to predict the potential risks and long-term effects of our daily decisions and policies, feels like a dangerous step away from a commitment to a sustainable, strong Canadian future. These cuts seem insignificant compared to those outlined yesterday, however. I was shocked to hear that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will be facing a 43% funding cut, along with cuts to a third of the jobs in the Agency. This seems like the worst possible timing – with a number of large, potentially environmentally hazardous projects in the pipeline for Canada (no pun intended) and Canada’s recent commitment to becoming a global energy superpower, shouldn’t scrutiny and due diligence be an even higher priority going forward? We need to push forward to bolster our economy and strengthen Canada’s global position, certainly, but if lack of oversight leads to more accidents and environmental disasters like those we’re seeing worldwide, will it be worth it in the end? What good is a strong economy if our environment and our beautiful country are irredeemably wrecked? I am loath to draw the comparison, but this smacks of Republican strategy by our southern neighbours – saving a buck now while guaranteeing the loss of hundreds a few years down the road. I would hate to see my country and my government fall into that trap.
I suppose that my question for you is this, Minister Kent: why is a government that has committed to protecting our country from climate change and environmental degradation simultaneously reducing your portfolio to irrelevancy? Without proper risk assessment and foresight, policy decisions going forward will be uninformed at best, dangerous at worst. This strategy wouldn’t fly in industry or any other sector – it’s simply bad business and insupportable – so why is it an acceptable approach when it comes to the environment, arguably our most important responsibility?
I applaud your efforts to improve the environmental regulatory framework industry by industry in Canada, and I suppose that is why I am further confused and concerned about this contradictory cuts to environmental risk assessment bodies. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to get your feedback on this issue – government works for and with the people, and I believe a big part of that is helping your citizens understand the policies and decisions enacted on our behalf. I live and work very near your riding here in Toronto, so if you had the time in your schedule to meet face-to-face to chat about these concerns, I would be very grateful. Otherwise, any input or comments you could provide would be invaluable.
Graham is a member of the CYCC’s policy research team