Calgary

Alberta environment ministry slashed by nine per cent as part of budget

Alberta's environment ministry wasn't spared by the government's provincial budget cuts — and an incremental slash to the department's funding is prompting concern from environmentalists that climate change isn't a priority.

Less money on the way for Alberta parks, emissions management, fish and wildlife

The Alberta government's nine per cent cut to the environmental department as part of the 2019 budget will mean less money for fish and wildlife, parks and emissions management. (David Bell/CBC)

Alberta's environment ministry wasn't spared by the government's provincial budget cuts — and an incremental slash to the department's funding is prompting concern from environmentalists that climate change isn't a priority.

Over the next four years, the Alberta government will implement a nine per cent cut to the environmental department. 

The funding reduction will translate into less money for emissions management, parks, and fish and wildlife.

Duncan Kenyon, the Alberta regional director of the clean energy think-tank Pembina Institute, said the funding cuts were a mixed bag, but ultimately could regress progress in the fight against climate change.

"I think we've missed some of the bigger changes that are going on in the globe — and we're not really adapting to those — but we're still going to see some good support for public transit, for example, which is important for the environment and some innovation," Kenyon said.

"It's not a complete abandonment of some of the key tenets to be able to get success in Canada and Alberta, but I would suggest that we don't have a diversified approach that we need."

The lack of a "concerted policy" on the diversification of energy was another issue that stood out to Kenyon.

"There isn't necessarily the investment in a diversified energy system, like going into renewables," he said.

The UCP has previously stoked concern among environmentalists for abolishing Alberta's carbon tax, eliminating its stand-alone offices for climate change policy and environmental monitoring, initiating a "war room" to fight what it calls misinformation and starting a $2.5-million inquiry into an alleged conspiracy to landlock Alberta oil.

The government stresses its levy on big carbon emitters is expected to raise 1.9 billion dollars over four years that will be invested in clean technologies.

In his budget address on Oct. 24, Finance Minister Travis Toews said the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction program — or TIER — "is an ambitious and realistic plan to incent investment in new emission reduction research and technologies." 

"Between 2000 and 2017, the emission intensity of oil sands operations has dropped by 28 per cent," he said. 

"This is the result of made-in-Alberta technologies and is a real outcome in the effort to reduce global emissions. TIER builds on this success and keeps the focus on large industrial emitters responsible for half of the emissions in Alberta."

With files from Brooks DeCillia, Robson Fletcher and The Canadian Press

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