More than a year ago, I wrote about Stephane Dion’s election as Liberal leader, and was guardedly optimistic about what it meant for Canadian environmentalists. Let’s just say that the last year has been pretty disappointing.
The latest came yesterday, after the Conservative government announced a budget that shovelled hundreds of millions of dollars toward fossil fuels and nuclear power. Dion has said his party will support the budget and not trigger an election.
How bad is this budget?
Well, probably the best indication is normally mild-mannered Tyler Hamilton’s reaction:
New subsidies for the coal, oil and nuclear industries and new handouts to major automakers. No mention of climate change. No extension of incentives for renewables. The cancelling of incentives for buying energy efficient vehicles. Dismissal, once again, of a carbon tax.
I think I’m going to throw up. We’re screwed.
Ouch. But it really is that bad. In a budget that’s otherwise been pretty boring, the only large selling points (aside from a new type of tax-free savings plan) are handouts to coal, oil, and Canada’s nationally owned nuclear company, AECL.
Which might leave you wondering why Dion, who is supposed to be against this stuff, is supporting this budget. Sadly, the answer there is mundane and predictable: the Liberal Party is worried that if they went into an election (the result of rejecting the budget), they might lose. So better to hang on for a while until they’re in a better position.
Meanwhile, the only serious controls on the tar sands that we’ve seen have come not from the government, but from industry itself. I’m not sure why industry has suddenly decided conservation is so important in Alberta, but I suppose it’s better than the nothing we’re getting from government.