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Green coalition challenges Harper

By Stuart Hertzog
January 22nd, 2009

NGOs and unions call for $41-billion green investment fund

A quarter million Green jobs

Ottawa —A powerful coalition of major environmental groups, big unions, scientists, business people and citizens is challenging Stephen Harper to invest up to $41 billion in green energy and infrastructure energy efficiency updates by in this month’s budget.

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The coalition, which claims to represent more than 850,000 Canadians, includes environmental NGOs Environmental Defence, the Pembina Institute and ForestEthics, as well as the industrial Forest Products Association of Canada.

Supporting scientists include leading climatologist Dr. Andrew Weaver of UVic, and University of Waterloo’s Centre for Environment and Business professor Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon.

The value of a ‘green’ budget received another powerful boost this week when four former prime ministers — Kim Campbell, Joe Clark, Paul Martin and John Turner — called for a “green stimulus” in the budget. Green Party leader Elizabeth May also chimed in belatedly. She wants Canada to adopt recently-installed US president Obama’s environmental vision and invest in a Green New Deal for Canada.

Environmental regulations to be slashed?

The PowerUp coalition’s call for a Green Economy Action Fund came just before this week’s accusation by the NDP that the Conservatives are planning to quietly gut Canada’s environmental regulations.

The NDP caucus claims to have a leaked copy of draft regulations that would stop environmental assessments on any project on federal lands or worth less than $10 million. They would also enable provincial governments to circumvent environmental regulations on request.

New Democrats believe that the Conservative are using the global financial crisis as an excuse to undermine the foundations of the Environmental Assessment Act, brought in by Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1992.

Mulroney garnered so much post-office kudos for this legislation that then Sierra Club of Canada executive director Elizabeth May in 2006 awarded him the title of Canada’s Greenest Prime Minister, an accoldade that did not fill every environmentalist with delight.

A coalition, necessarily

How times have changed. Now, it’s going to take more than a coalition of 850,000 people to divert Harper from his neo-conservative agenda. Only the threat of being replaced by a coalition government is likely give him pause to re-think his hidden, anti-environment plans.

That’s something that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff would do well to bear in mind when he considers how he should respond to Tuesday’s budget. There’s a lot more riding on it than just fiscal prudence.

Canada’s essential environmental protection law is in jeopardy.


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