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Canadian government assault on environmentalists continues

It seems that cutting 700 jobs from the payroll of Environment Canada back in August was not enough for the anti-environment ideologues of the Canada’s Conservative government. Today, the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN), one of Canada’s oldest, largest, and most well-respected democratic institutions serving the environmental concerns of all Canadians, was forced to lay off its staff and is on the verge of closing its doors and those of its 11 regional offices.

Why you ask? Well, because the Conservative government under Stephen Harper, with one day prior notice, apparently decided to cancel funding that had been promised the organization.

In its letter to the Canadian Environmental Network, made public yesterday, the federal Department of the Environment said it was not renewing financial support for the Network because of a broader shift away from “core organizational funding.”

In true Orwellian fashion, the letter went on to say that Environment Canada is seeking, “to allocate its resources in the most efficient and cost effective manner to ensure a safe, clean and sustainable environment for Canadians.” I see. Eliminating funding to environmental organizations helps to ensure better environmental protection. Makes perfect sense to me.

According to Larry McDermott, Aboriginal Representative and Director of the RCEN, the organization consists of “over 640 highly diverse large and small, rural and urban organizations from coast to coast to coast.” The Network is now demanding to know why it is being shut out of communications with Environment Canada regarding the promised funding for fiscal year 2011-2012.

“The Canadian Environmental Network received a letter from Environment Canada in May this year stating their intent to continue core funding in the amount of $547,000 for the current fiscal year. In keeping with our over three decades-long partnership, we ask that EC honour this letter,” said Olivier Kolmel, Chair of the RCEN.

Meanwhile, the government also announced that the “Canada School of Energy and Environment,” based in Calgary, will receive $15 million from the federal government. Sounds good at first glance; however, according to Postmedia News, one of this organization’s primary goals is “to clean up the dirty oil image of Canada’s oil sands and provide the public with a more balanced view of its environmental performance.”

What is going on here? Well, it seems to be yet another clear indication of this government’s priorities. According to journalist Karl Nerenberg, Canada’s government (elected to a majority rule with just 39.6% of the popular vote) “believes that the very profitable oil and gas industry needs taxpayer money to help it promote its own interests, while scientists and advocates for the environment can look after themselves.”

Nerenberg also points out that “The argument of those ideologues of the political right was pretty simple. If we stop funding groups that disagree with us, they said, those groups will, for the most part, disappear, and our side will have greater control over national debates. That is why the government de-funded the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the Canadian Council on Social Development and the Canadian Policy Research Networks, just to name three.

“The message is: if you want to advocate, criticize, share information at variance with government policy (even if scientifically based), or establish grass roots networks, that’s up to you. Just don’t expect government money to do so.”

We are only 6 months into a 4-year Conservative mandate and evidence of what their priorities will be continues to mount on an almost daily basis. As a bumper sticker I read recently stated quite aptly, “at least the war on the environment is going well.”

Categories: Politics, Tar sands Tags: Canadian Environmental Network, , RCEN,
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