While many issues were touched upon during the 2017 budget for B.C., environmentalists believed the topic of the environment and climate change were left treated as after thoughts.
Many eyes were on B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong Tuesday afternoon for the 2017 budget announcement, and not all were pleased. Among the subjects of education, health, taxes and welfare, to some, the low amount of, or lack of talk on the environment was noticeable.
For what was in the speech for the environment included subsidies for electric vehicles, $36 million over three years to the B.C. Parks strategy, $9 million to support forest rehabilitation and $27 million to support caribou population recovery.
Torrance Coste, the Vancouver Island Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee said what was announced for the environment are “band-aid solutions” and more “pre-election goodies” that look like progress on paper, but are far from addressing the true situation.
“This government is a bit of a broken record on the environment and climate change,” said Coste. “The government has really pitched this as that protecting the environment costs a lot of money and not protecting it means cheaper, less expensive lives for B.C. citizens. What that does is ignore the long-term cost. Climate change is going to cost us far more than anything.”
While the government’s efforts with the environment, such as the forest rehabilitation support sounds like progress, Coste finds the benefits become questionable once you look at the plan, which for the forest issue would be to thin out forests that are susceptible to fires, to replant and to create healthy forests.
“The forests are unhealthy because of over logging. So, the corporations that make the forests unhealthy in the first place aren’t paying for that, we are,” said Coste. “All the benefits [are] going to a handful of corporations and all the cleanup costs are going to the province.”
Within wildlife, unfortunately, the investments to caribou recovery could be just another questionable step for the province with the government’s past of addressing the population by shooting their predator, the wolf, from helicopters.
“Some of the big impacts to caribou are climate change and habitat loss and to a certain extent, predation by wolves. Addressing those first two means dramatically reducing carbon emissions and setting their habitats off-limits from industrial activity like logging and oil and gas development. The government doesn’t want to do any of those,” said Coste.
Coste finds the provincial government and the media have been glued to the idea of revenue and neutrality, which is something he hopes can be moved away from for the upcoming election in May. He also hopes that there will be a proper framing of the climate change crisis and that there will be more coverage around endangered species, habitat protection, and forests.
“A couple decades down the road, 100 years down the road, climate change is the only thing that’s going to matter. It’s an environmental issue, it’s a social issue, a human rights issue, an economic issue,” said Coste.
Although climate change has become a frequent controversial topic, Thomas Davies, an organizer with Climate Convergence, was not surprised when it wasn’t discussed or a part of the budget.
“It hasn’t been an issue or a priority with this government for its entire tenure. I obviously was hoping for the best, but was expecting the worst,” said Davies.
While the budget was perhaps a disappointment for Davies, he thinks it just means that the people have to be the ones to speak out.
“If they aren’t talking about it, then we need to be talking about it. Not only talking but taking action and bringing people together to show the government that we really are opposed to [their] policies,” said Davies.
Climate Convergence holds many protests and talks on climate issues such as the approved Kinder Morgan pipeline. Davies hopes the upcoming election can become a vital time to discuss what was not addressed in the budget around the environment and climate.
For what they did put forward, Davies finds isn’t enough when put in contrast with their other decisions.
“Those are just drops in the bucket compared to the damage that is being done by their other policies and the policies they continue to enact and support for over a decade now,” said Davies.