Budget undermines environmental protection and resource management

September 10, 2009

Last week's budget contained significant cuts to environmental programs and resource management programs across several ministries.

The Ministry of Environment lost $25 million in program spending which will mean a 58% cut in environmental protection, a 54% spending cut for the office of the Climate Action Secretariat, and an 11.4% cut for stewardship programs. There are also significant reductions to the budgets for environmental assessment, parks, and compliance.

This will mean less support for the programs that conserve BC's biodiversity, protect species at risk, monitor and report on air and water quality, respond to environmental emergencies, set emission standards, and address climate change.

In the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands $20 million was cut from the crown land restoration program. This is a 78% reduction in funds available to clean-up toxins on contaminated crown land sites. There were also cuts in agricultural development and strategic industry development programs. One million dollars was cut from the Ministry of Forests & Range compliance and enforcement program, meaning forest companies will be subject to fewer spot audits and will be left to do more self-monitoring. There were also cuts in the Integrated Lands Management Bureau, timber pricing and BC Timber sales.

Even the province's home energy-efficiency retrofitting grant program was stopped.

"British Columbians want to see government taking strong steps on habitat protection, pollution control, energy and water conservation, and climate change, says BCGEU President Darryl Walker. "Where has this government's green commitment gone?"

The budget also effects a number of ministry workers throughout the province. Sixteen BCGEU members in the Ministry of Forests and Range offices received redundancy notices last week. Employees were told last week the staff count will be reduced by 248 a 14% reduction over the next few years.

Walker says, "the gradual elimination of large numbers of jobs, combined with significant cuts in program spending can only mean important environmental protection and resource management will not occur."