Update - 14 July 2016: An indirect communication to me from the Trudeau government indicated surprise that Environment Canada’s budget was decreasing and suggested that my “Planned Spending” numbers – obtained from EC’s Report on Plans and Priorities 2016-2017 (see here) – are wrong. Further investigation reveals that EC’s budget is not declining as their published numbers had me believe.
EC’s Report numbers trace back to the federal government’s Main Estimates. The government also publishes Supplementary Estimates when a department’s Main Estimates are not ready in time, and in Environment Canada’s case the adjustment was substantial: $84.6 million.
EC’s Report does not indicate that its “Planned Spending” figures are out of date, and were effectively outdated at the time it was published. The Report was “last updated” on May 15 following the Main Estimates on February 11 and tabling of the federal budget on March 22. Supplementary Estimates are generally tabled in May and in this case were published on June 10.
Figure 4 gives the same budget numbers as before, but with a new data point adjusted for Supplementary spending. We can conclude that for at least the next year funding at EC will hold steady. It is possible that there will be additional Supplementary adjustments. There is no update to the information available for fiscal years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.
Note that the only staffing numbers I can find are those in the Report. Historically, the planned and actual staffing track quite closely. At present, EC projects 769 fewer staff for fiscal year 2016-2017 than 2014-2015, the last full year the Harper government was in power. It seems likely with a higher budget that more staffing will be needed.
In light of this new information, I retract my assertion that “the Trudeau government plans to cut EC far deeper than the Harper government ever did”. Furthermore, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna do not “have some explaining to do”. I do hope that EC’s Report on Plans and Priorities 2016-2017 will be updated. In any case, I regret the confusion that has been caused.
The Trudeau government’s Budget 2016 outlined a variety of initiatives for environmental science, monitoring and protection. What it did not do was give funding envelopes for federal departments, which have been released piecemeal through other documents. I reviewed the budget for Environment Canada (EC)1, and the news is not good. The Trudeau government plans to cut EC far deeper than the Harper government ever did.
Figure 1 shows EC’s budget over the past decade and what is planned for the future. The downward trend since 2009 will continue unabated. In fact, the Trudeau government will reduce EC’s funding in real dollar terms to levels well below anything seen during the Harper regime. Forget about restoring what was lost. These cuts can only further compromise programs that protect the health and safety of Canadians.
Figure 2 shows EC’s staffing levels over the same time span. Cuts to personnel will be accelerated. The Harper government eliminated 479 positions during their decade in power. The Trudeau government plans to eliminate 837 more within three years.
This is the story the numbers tell: At a time when our environmental liabilities are multiplying, the federal government is further reducing its role in monitoring and protecting the environment.
Cuts to EC are nothing new to Liberal governments. In 2004 a group of leading academics published a monograph titled Beyond the Breaking Point? which drew attention to the impact of cuts at the Meteorological Service of Canada (a division of EC):
“As a result of cost-cutting pressures, however, MSC’s ability to sustain leading-edge research is deteriorating. After peaking in the first half of the 1990s, funding for government research in atmospheric and climate science has declined steadily.”
The Liberal government from 1993-2006 was replaced by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, who savaged EC in 2011. What did the Liberals have to say about Harper’s cuts at the time? Here’s a quote from Kirsty Duncan, now Canada’s Science Minister:
“Unfortunately, ‘Economic Action Plan 2012’ shows a complete failure to learn from the past – namely, that past cuts to the environment have resulted in dire consequences, and that worst-case scenarios do occur.”
The same can – and should – be said right now. She went on:
“Instead, it is an attack on our best means of defence: namely, environmental protection, monitoring, and emergency response. For example, Environment Canada will lose 200 positions; and key research and monitoring initiatives (e.g., air pollution, industrial emissions, water quality, etc.) and partnerships for a greener economy will be cut $7.5 million.”
Much of what Duncan lamented cannot be restored with decreased funding. Even more programs will need to be cut to meet the federal government’s budgetary goals.
Duncan and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna have some explaining to do. These cuts were not identified in Budget 2016. Say what you will about the Harper government, at least they were up front in declaring their intentions to cut EC in their omnibus budget bills.
The financial and personnel data come from documents made available by EC. Two different data sets are used prior to 2016: Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs, squares) and Departmental Unaudited Financial Statements (DUFSs, triangles). EC’s Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs, circles) are used for 2016 and later.
“Planned Spending” figures from the RPPs were used. These are compared with “Net Cash provided by the Government of Canada” from the DUFSs and “Actual Spending” from the DPRs. It is not clear why the DUFS and DPR data are different, although they are close.
Budgetary data were converted into real 2016 dollars using the Bank of Canada’s Inflation Calculator. Beyond 2016 an inflation rate of 1.5% was assumed.
The budget per capita is also interesting: see Figure 3. Population data from Statistics Canada were used in the calculation. Beyond 2016 an annual population growth rate of 1% was assumed. The graph reveals that the contributions Canadians have made to environmental protection through EC will plummet to below $21/person in 2019. For reference, the per capita budget for the US Environmental Protection Agency is currently above $33 CAD/person, and with inflation it will be around $35 CAD/person in 2019.
EC has been rebranded as Environment and Climate Change Canada by the Trudeau government.↩
(Updated 15 July 2016)