Tuesday April 3, 2012

BC Politics

Streamlining the Environment

'Federal Budget bad for BC economy' say Greens

Released by Jane Sterk, BC Green Party

 

he Green Party of BC believes the Harper Conservative's budget is bad news for BC's economy in three areas: the accelerated approval of large resource development projects retroactively applied to the Northern Gateway Proposal; the increase in the value of tax exempt good purchased in the US during short-term stays; and, the cancellation of the EcoENERGY energy efficiency program and renewable energy program.

BC Greens think the provincial government has a duty to stand up for BC. While the BC Liberal government supports a single environmental process led by the province, the changes to be legislated by the federal government are opposed by the vast majority of British Columbians.

 

So called "streamlining" of the environmental assessment process is actually weakening an already flawed review. The changes are designed to get large and environmentally damaging projects, specifically the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline approved quickly. It is obvious the government wants to silence First Nations and those with environmental and economic concerns and it's using the budget, an inappropriate way to legislate changes to environmental protection, to do so.

The fact that changes will apply retroactively to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal is unacceptable and unprecedented given that hearings are in progress and scheduled to continue beyond the time-frame specified in the budget. The federal government has said repeatedly it wants the project approved and have denigrated those who oppose the pipeline.

 

This budget repeats their belief that environmental groups should not be able to express an opinion. The Green Party of BC hopes this encourages environmental groups to remove themselves from non-profit designation that allows the government to limit their activism.

The Green Party agrees that the environmental assessment process needs to change and there needs to be clear guidelines for evaluating projects, both for proponents and those British Columbians who are impacted by the proposed development. BC Greens reject the federally imposed deadlines and processes which are designed to further weaken environmental standards and to approve quickly all resource development projects.

A Green government would act in the best interest of the citizens of BC while respecting First Nations land and title rights. A Green government would require the proposing and the opposing parties to produce financial assessments that account for measurable economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts. The environmental assessment expert panel reviewing the project would be appointed by an arms length agency and the panel would serve on behalf of the people of BC, not industry or the government, especially not the federal government.

Final decisions would be based on the impact of the project on the sustainable long-term well being of British Columbia and recommendations would be founded in science and evidence that demonstrates benefits - both long and short term - outweigh the negative impacts of the project. In addition all negative impacts would need a plan for mitigation and project proponents will be fully liable for all costs.

The provision in the federal budget to increase the value of tax-exempt goods from $50 to $200 for day trip cross border shoppers" is terrible for BC businesses especially those close to US border communities. The increase is designed to encourage British Columbians to shop in the States, something that is already happening at a rate that is bad for BC retailers. It is not the job of our federal government to improve the retail economy of the US when such action is completely unnecessary and adds no financial benefit to the budget.

The direct result will be an erosion of retail base that will hurt local retailers and cost local jobs. In turn, that will shrink the sales tax base and the income tax base for the province as well as the Federal government. Retail dollars spent in the US do not pay for the infrastructure (health care, education, roads, etc.) in BC.

 

The Green Party of BC would rather see the Federal government use the expected drop in its sales tax revenue to look for ways to level the playing field for BC retailers (like cutting government red-tape and regulations that impose added costs to BC retailers). We call on the BC Liberal government to negotiate with the federal government for a better deal for BC's retailers.

The decision to not continue the ecoEnergy - Retrofit Homes program is another bad move. This program was creating local jobs while helping to reduce citizens' carbon footprint. Canadian and BC retrofit programs have had limited success in reaching a broad spectrum of homeowners. For the most part, they have ignored renters and low-income residents. Limits on the number of program participants and money allocated to the programs in federal and provincial budgets have curtailed participation.

That suggests the program needs to be reformed, not scrapped. There are many different ways to grow an economy. A deep energy retrofit program targeting Canadian residential and commercial buildings would generate many more jobs and create much more wealth and through savings, and produce way more energy than the planned Harper initiatives that will assist some 500 resource development projects and require $500 billion of investment. The Green Party of BC asks the federal government to reinstate the program and improve its accessibility for more homeowners.

A budget is about choices. BC Greens believe provinces and Canadians should have a voice in those choices. In these three areas, the Federal budget is bad for BC.

 

 

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