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Parliamentarians Call for Federal Budget for Nature
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Parliamentarians Call for Federal Budget for Nature

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] 116 Members of Parliament and Senators have written to the Finance Minister Bill Morneau requesting that the upcoming federal budget include a “historic investment” to protect Canada’s land, freshwater and ocean. The Parliamentarian’s letter adopts the Green Budget Coalition’s request for an initial investment of $1.4-billion over the next three years to establish new National Wildlife Areas, National Parks and provincial and Indigenous protected areas, with $470-million annually to pay for the enhancement of protected areas. The Green Budget Coalition’s detailed funding request is included in its recommendations for the 2018 federal budget the Green Budget Coalition is a group of 19 of Canada's top nature and environmental organizations that is co-chaired by Nature Canada.   The Coalition and the Parliamentarians make the case that the proposed federal investment is essential to deliver on Canada’s commitment under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to protect at least 17% of Canada’s land and freshwater and 10% of our ocean by 2020. Right now the Prime Minister and federal finance minister are deciding what to fund in Budget 2018. With the support these Parliamentarians, I am excited to tell you that this could be the biggest single investment ever made to protect Canada's land, freshwater and ocean [button link="https://e-activist.com/page/17966/action/1" size="medium" target="_blank" icon="" style="light" color="red"]Please sign on to Nature Canada’s budget petition to make this investment happen.[/button]

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A Greenish Budget
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A Greenish Budget

[caption id="attachment_23643" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Federal finance minister Bill Morneau announced the Liberal government’s first budget on March 22. Overall, Budget 2016 is pretty good for nature. Positive announcements include: National Parks

  • $142.5 million over 5 years for new parks establishment ($42 million);
  • $83.3 million to pay for free admissions to National Parks; and
  • $16.6 million for the Learn to Camp Program.
Marine and Coastal Areas
  • $81.3 million over 5 years to establish new marine protected areas and for marine conservation activities.
Environmental Assessment
  • $16.5 million over 3 years  for participant funding in environmental assessments of projects such as Energy East; and
  • $14.5 million over 3 years  to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for increasing its capacity with respect to consultations and compliance and enforcement.
Image of grasslandsBudget 2016 includes $2 billion for a low-carbon future fund and $518 million in climate change mitigation and adaptation infrastructure projects.  Nature Canada and other nature groups will be arguing that protection of  ecosystems such as native grasslands should be eligible for funding under these funds as inexpensive means to sequester and store carbon and build in resilience to global climate change. Nature Canada is disappointed  that  there is no new funding for Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) for
  • Species at risk,  migratory birds or grasslands conservation; or
  • Connecting Canadians to nature (Parks Canada did received funding for the Learn to Camp program)
Nature Canada and the other nature groups in the Green Budget Coalition need to work harder this year to ensure that these neglected CWS program areas are not neglected in Budget 2017. So in conclusion, overall a rating of “Greenish” for Budget 2016.
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Canada’s environment is central to Canadians’ prosperity, says coalition of environmental organizations
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Canada’s environment is central to Canadians’ prosperity, says coalition of environmental organizations

Last week, the Green Budget Coalition released a report, Recommendations for Budget 2015, which encourages the Government of Canada to take certain measures to advance environmental sustainability and stimulate innovation and economic opportunities. "The Green Budget Coalition believes strongly that adopting the recommendations in his document will be invaluable for providing Canadians with a healthy environment, a thriving, sustainable economy and the opportunity to live healthy lives today and far into the future," said Andrew Van Iterson, Manager of the Green Budget Coalition. The report focuses on three strategic areas:

  1. Energy innovation and climate change leadership
  2. Achieving Canada's conservation commitments
  3. Ensuring healthy communities for all Canadians

[button link="http://greenbudget.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Green-Budget-Coalitions-Recommendations-for-Budget-2015-November-12-2014.pdf" size="medium" target="_self" color="alternative-1" lightbox="false"]Read the full report here[/button]


Nature Canada is a member of the Green Budget Coalition. The Coalition brings together the collective expertise of fourteen of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organizations, representing over 600,000 Canadians, to present an analysis of the most pressing issues regarding environmental sustainability in Canada and to make a consolidated annual set of recommendations to the federal government regarding strategic fiscal and budgetary opportunities.  

National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 2]
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National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 2]

[This blog post is part 2 of a 2-part series. Part 1 can be found here]

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o it’s Canada Environment Week — did you know? More importantly, did you know that in mid-May the federal government made a significant commitment to conservation in Canada? Notwithstanding what’s missing, the National Conservation Plan does promise $20 million/year and $10 million/year investments in the Nature Conservancy of Canada (for ecologically sensitive areas) and wetland restoration, respectively, which is very positive. It’s fair to question how these investments will help to connect all Canadians to nature, however, since they seem to be focused on protecting private lands, instead of lands (not waters) that will be publicly owned and accessible, or located in or near large population centres. After all, more than 80% of us presently live in urban centres. So how will the government ensure that it delivers on the National Conservation Plan’s promise to connect urban Canadians to nature? There’s less and less capacity within departments like Environment Canada and Parks Canada to develop and deliver these programs and neither Budget 2014 nor the Plan assign this mandate to any specific department. It’s very positive to see the government reaching out to conservation partners like Earth Rangers and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, but this task will require many more players working with a variety of approaches to engage Canada’s increasingly distracted, increasingly culturally diverse and increasingly urban population in this venture – or as Prime Minister Harper puts it, this “ethic of true stewardship… of the heart”. You can’t change people’s minds, attitudes or behaviours simply with an advertising campaign, no matter how well produced or widely broadcast it is. As proponents of community-based social marketing would advise, you first need to understand the real and perceived barriers to the beneficial behaviour(s) you want people to adopt and then work to remove or overcome those barriers. The most effective approach to making these beneficial behaviours stick is to work locally where people can observe more and more of their neighbours and peers gradually adopting the behaviours over time. Curb-side recycling is the best example of this – no one wants to be the only resident on the street who doesn’t recycle. Hopefully this strategic approach to engaging Canadians and fostering a new nationwide conservation ethic is inherent in the thinking behind the National Conservation Plan, but we’ll have to wait and see. [caption id="attachment_11934" align="alignright" width="300"]Cars stuck in traffic on a multi-lane highway in a Canadian City. More than 80% of Canadians currently live in or near urban centres.[/caption] Of course, we’ve got no time to lose since our relationship with nature is only becoming more broken with time, to paraphrase host Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s program Q. We should point to another significant oversight in the Conservation Plan: the private sector. If we want a wholesale, Canadian stewardship ethic to begin evolving in the next 5 years, wouldn’t it make sense to engage the businesses driving our commerce and trade (domestic and international), selling us consumer goods and providing countless services to Canadians? Shouldn’t we have the opportunity to nurture our heartfelt stewardship ethic at the cash register? The gas pump? The grocery store? Moreover, businesses and industry may be driven by heart, but their actions in the market and on the ground are governed by regulation. And in order to make a National Conservation Plan truly relevant, it must be espoused and endorsed by industry and the private sector. Don’t get us wrong, we think the National Conservation Plan is a good step in the right direction, and we applaud the government for making this bold commitment. But let’s make sure this isn’t just an investment in good feelings.

National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 1]
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National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 1]

[This blog post is part 1 of a 2-part series. Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2]

[dropcap style="default"]S[/dropcap]o it’s Canada Environment Week — did you know? More importantly, did you know that in mid-May the federal government made a significant commitment to conservation in Canada? That’s right. On May 15th, just days before the United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22), the federal government released its long-awaited National Conservation Plan. Though the details are still unclear, the Plan promises to invest $252-million over the next five years in Conserving Canada’s lands and waters, restoring Canada’s ecosystems and Connecting Canadians to nature. This is a positive achievement and it’s one that we at Nature Canada generally applaud. For a long time, we have been a key advocate for a lot of the sorts of things that this plan talks about and, of course, connecting Canadians to nature is our core mission. [caption id="attachment_11926" align="alignleft" width="300"]Algonquin Park wetland showing black spruce and a typical Canadian Shield landscape, Ontario, Canada, protected area Publicly accessible protected areas like Ontario's Algonquin Park aren't directly addressed in the National Conservation Plan.[/caption] During Prime Minister Harper’s announcement of the Plan in New Brunswick in May, Canadians were told that “[a]n ethic of true stewardship cannot be imposed by regulation, it is of the heart”, and that we  “… should become willingly and eagerly a community of stewards”. We don’t disagree with either of these statements, but we question how the investments announced under the Plan will achieve these lofty goals. In Nature Canada’s case, we’ve been trying to achieve these goals since 1939 — longer than any other national conservation organization in Canada — and it’s not easy. And with the phenomenon of ‘nature deficit disorder’ and our growing disconnect with the natural world, it’s surely not getting any easier with time. This question of “how” to achieve the Plan’s goals arises again this Canada Environment Week, for which this year’s theme is “Strengthening our Environment Today for Tomorrow”. The government’s investment of $252 million promises to “build on the conservation measures announced in Budget 2014” over a 5 year period from 2014 to 2019, with notable funding injections in the following areas:
  • $10 million/year for the voluntary restoration and conservation of species and their habitats (presumably referring to species at risk stewardship and recovery funding)
  • $7.4 million/year for marine and coastal conservation (presumably referring to marine protected areas, which need to jump from just 1% protection currently all the way to 10% by 2020, as per the UN Convention on Biological Diversity)
  • $1.84 million/year to connect urban Canadians to nature (presumably referring to new programs, or perhaps the Rouge National Urban Park…?)
These investments are intended to build on approximately $406.5 million announced in Budget 2014 for natural heritage conservation by Parks Canada and Fisheries & Ocean over the next 5 years – 96% of which is actually for infrastructure improvements in national parks and along historic canals. One could argue that this infrastructure makes it easier for people access to nature, yes, but it doesn’t necessarily remove the most important barriers for people. Barriers like the distance, cost and time associated with visiting Canada’s amazing national parks and other protected land- and seascapes. Absent from Budget 2014 was any mention of funding for the protection of publicly-owned marine or terrestrial protected areas because Canada protects so little of its overall land area compared to the United States. Today, however, in response to CPAWS’ Dare to be Deep report on marine protection in Canada, CBC reports that Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea’s office stated the following: “We remain committed to meet our target of protecting 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020 under the International Convention on Biological Diversity.” Again, the question of “how” looms large. Stay tuned tomorrow where we'll explore the "how" issue and others in depth.

The Budget is Canada’s most important environmental document of the year
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The Budget is Canada’s most important environmental document of the year

Image of 4 circles with text saying recommendations for Budget 2013
Last month the Green Budget Coalition (GBC) released its recommendations for the 2013 budget (haven't seen them? Here's the English, and the French). Acting on the knowledge that the environment and the economy are "inextricably linked", as Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty has said, the Coalition prepares common sense recommendations that, if adopted, would lead to a healthier environment, a healthier economy and healthier lives for us all. Sixteen of the country's leading environmental and conservation organizations come together to form the GBC, and Nature Canada is proud to have hosted the GBC since its founding in 1999. How does the Green Budget Coalition work? What kinds of recommendations does it make? A recent article in The Lobby Monitor does a good job of answering these questions. Normally you need a subscription to read The Lobby Monitor but the good folks there have allowed us to post the article as a pdf for everyone to read.

Another omnibus bill further weakens nature protection
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Another omnibus bill further weakens nature protection

A second omnibus bill, C-45, was tabled yesterday by the federal government, picking up where last spring’s budget bill left off, furthering eliminating environmental protections, and removing hurdles for projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. Late yesterday, several major conservation groups, including Nature Canada, issued the following statement:
Once again, the federal government is proposing to make significant changes to environmental legislation without proper democratic debate, according to many of Canada’s leading environmental organizations. Instead, these changes are contained in a sweeping omnibus budget bill. Canadians concerned about protecting the air, water, soil and natural ecosystems that support all of us -- and our economy -- are doubly troubled, both by the end-run around democratic process and the potential for even more pollution and destruction of critical habitat. The bill includes proposed changes to laws protecting fish and navigable waters, preventing harm from hazardous waste and governing the shipping industry. We will be reviewing these changes in more detail in the coming days to determine what impact they could have on environmental protection. We note many of these pieces of legislation were also changed by the omnibus bill in the spring. Changing the same bill twice in one year underlines the value of debating specific bills, through appropriate committees—the jobs our MPs are elected to do. There is no need to subvert our legislative process in this manner, which only serves to heighten fears that already-weakened laws will get weaker still.
The groups issuing this statement are: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and WWF Canada. Go to the Black Out Speak Out campaign Facebook page for updates.

We Can’t Leave Canada’s Parks and Wildlife Areas Unprotected
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We Can’t Leave Canada’s Parks and Wildlife Areas Unprotected

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="320"]Image of a Whimbrel Whimbrel, like those found at NWT's Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary[/caption] Canada’s national parks, national wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries may be more vulnerable than ever before to development inside their borders. Under the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, many developments in federal protected areas would no longer require environmental assessments or be subject to public scrutiny.  Developments like:

  • Building a ski resort
  • Building a golf course
  • Constructing bridges and roads other than public highways
  • Conducting military field exercises
  • Offshore drilling
  • Underwater seismic testing
Golf courses and ski lodges should not be given a green light inside Canada’s national parks without an automatic environmental assessment. Nearly 3,000 environmental reviews have already been tossed out since the law was put in place last month. It appears that not even our federally protected areas will escape the government’s so-called streamlining. Our federal protected areas deserve the highest level of protection by law, and there needs to be careful, legally binding scrutiny of developments inside our most precious and vulnerable protected spaces. That's what we argued in recommendations we submitted today to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, proposing amendments to regulations in the new Act passed by Parliament this spring.  These new regulations would allow a number of so-called “physical activities” inside national parks and other federal protected areas to proceed without triggering an independent environmental review.  Under the new law, only activities designated as “projects” would require an environmental assessment to ensure that the activity does not cause lasting environmental damage. The list of activities considered “projects” has been reduced under the new legislation.  When it comes to whether an activity triggers a review, the new law does not currently treat federal protected areas, such as national parks or national wildlife areas, any differently than other federal lands, like military bases, or even downtown federal office buildings. It should not be harder to build a golf course at an office park in downtown Ottawa without a formal review than it would be at Point Pelee National Park.    And just think: with this new law, developments like expanding gas drilling in Alberta’s Suffield National Wildlife Area or NWT’s Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary could move ahead – all without environmental assessments or public input. Fewer than 10 percent of Canada’s lands and seas are legally protected through designations like parks and reserves. About one third of all protected areas fall on lands held by the federal government. As a result, one third of Canada’s exceptionally important protected areas are put at risk by changes in federal environmental assessment rules announced in CEAA 2012. We're asking Canadians to tell Canada’s government that national wildlife areas and other federally protected spaces are no place for ski resorts, mines or oil drilling operations. You can send a letter supporting our recommendations to the Environment Minister, Peter Kent. In a report we published earlier this year, The Underlying Threat, we highlighted the types of developments that currently threaten some of our federal protected areas, most of which provide crucial habitat for Canada’s species at risk. The list is long, the pressures mounting. Addressing these threats requires stronger environmental regulations, not weaker ones that open up our protected spaces for irresponsible resource development.

Scientists Rally to Mark "Death of Evidence"
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Scientists Rally to Mark "Death of Evidence"

[three_fourth]
As a science-based organization, Nature Canada depends on sound, impartial research to understand changes underway in our ecosystems, and to offer practical solutions for protecting the natural world for future generations.
Without scientific research, reports like our recent State of Canada's Birds 2012 report -- published in collaboration with government, NGO and corporate partners -- would be impossible.
As part of the Black Out Speak Out campaign, we decried government attacks on nature and democracy embodied in the recently passed omnibus budget bill C-38, which includes cuts to research programs in Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, and Statistics Canada. Funding has been eliminated for the National Science Adviser, and National Round Table on Environment and Economy, the PEARL Arctic atmospheric research lab and the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario. The latter two are leading centres of real-world experiments to study our land and water in ways that no one can do in a lab.
Today, scientists held a rally to mark "the death of evidence." Here are some pics from the event.
[/three_fourth][one_fourth_last] [/one_fourth_last]

House Passes Bill C-38
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House Passes Bill C-38

Today, our elected Members of Parliament passed Bill C-38.
You know this is bad news for nature and the health of our communities and democracy. If you joined us in participating in the Black Out Speak Out campaign, you may be feeling, like us, as if your efforts over the last month to speak out in defence of these core Canadian values have been ignored. Please keep in mind however that something remarkable has happened recently -- and you were a part of this: Thousands of Canadians from across the country and different sectors and political backgrounds have joined together to speak out for a future that does not deny our democratic traditions or our interconnectedness and our interdependence on nature. Rest assured that we will build on this moment of unity.  We invite you to share your thoughts about ways to keep our voices strong on  Facebook. And, please stand-by for the next update which will come in less than 10 days. In the meantime,  you may wish to read my public statement below, or the media release that we and our Black Out Speak Out partners issued.
Here is the statement I issued on behalf of Nature Canada:
Today, Members of Parliament passed Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill that represents sweeping changes to our system of environmental laws in order to fast-track development projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
In passing this budget bill, essential protections are being removed at the expense of our land, water, climate and wildlife. It represents an abdication of the federal government’s number one responsibility, to protect the health and safety of its people.
The gutting of environmental safeguards means that Canadians will face increasing risk from rushed industrial projects, and will have fewer opportunities to participate in environmental reviews before they are approved.
  At a time of increasing investment in a resource economy, Canadians are calling for more environmental protection, not less. Unfortunately, Bill C-38 is taking us all in the wrong direction, at the expense of nature and democracy. 
Silence is not an option. Join us, and continue to speak out for nature and democracy.

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