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Budget cuts to Environment Canada and how they affect Canada's water sources

Budget cuts to Environment Canada and how they affect Canada's water sources
national water campaigner. By Emma Lui

Yesterday nearly 50 civil society organizations sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper decrying the cuts to Environment Canada and outlining serious concerns about the impacts the cuts will have on water.

The letter was endorsed by labour, environmental, social justice, women's and First Nations organizations, including the Council of Canadians, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council, M├ętis Women's Circle, Mining Watch Canada, National Council of Women of Canada, National Network on Environments and Women's Health, Polaris Institute, Public Service Alliance of Canada, and Sierra Club Canada.

In the letter, statements were made by Maude Barlow (national chairperson of the Council of Canadians), Oliver M. Brandes (co-director of the University of Victoria's POLIS Project on Ecological Governance), David Suzuki (emeritus professor of zoology, University of British Columbia), Bob Sandford (chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the United Nations Water for Life Decade), Ralph Pentland (acting chairman of the Canadian Water Issues Council) and Randy Christensen (lawyer with Ecojustice).

Summary of budget cuts to Environment Canada

A comparison of Environment Canada's Reports on Plans and Priorities from 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 reveals some shocking cuts to a critical government department. A summary of key points from the budget cuts to Environment Canada are:

- Reduction of $222.2 million from last year's total planned spending
- Elimination of 1211 jobs (full-time equivalents) over the next three years
- Some of the biggest cuts were in the program activities of Climate Change and Clean Air, Substance and Waste Management, Weather and Environmental Services, Water Resources and Internal Services
- Specific programs in which funding was reduced include the Action Plan on Clean Water and the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan
- The specific programs that were cut this year include the Chemicals Management Plan, the Clean Air Agenda and the Air Quality Health Index
- The specific programs that will be cut next year include Species at Risk

While some of the cuts were predicted in last year's Report on Plans and Priorities, cuts in program activities such as Biodiversity, Weather and Environmental Services, Substance and Waste Management and Climate Change and Clean Air were either not predicted in the 2010-2011 Report on Plans and Priorities or higher than estimates outlined in the 2010-2011Report.

Although Environment Canada's 2011-2012 Report on Plans and Priorities outlines 'Planning Highlights' for the various program activities, the report fails to provide an analysis of the impacts of these cuts on water and other elements of the natural environment. The federal government has also failed to provide an opportunity for public debate on these critical decisions that will have impacts on current as well as future generations

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