By Julia Dima
Today, the provincial budget for Saskatchewan was released and the minister of environment, Ken Cheveldayoff is pleased. Environment critics are not.
The ministry of environment is facing an approximate decrease of $2.6 million in expense funds compared to last year’s provincial budget.
“We’ll manage with a little less money, and continue to meet our goals. We’re working with industries across Saskatchewan to ensure we can do that,” said Cheveldayoff.
The budget includes just over $1 million less for the provincial climate change plan and $1.3 million for environmental protection.
The reductions are significantly smaller that last year’s, when the climate change plan, in particularly the Go Green program, was cut by $11 million. This year's climate change plan budget is $4.3 million, down from $5.4 million last year.
Ken Cheveldayoff said climate change programming is a priority for the government, but they have also had to make some tough decisions in the budget.
“Climate change in Saskatchewan still has a strong budget … and we’re going to continue to make sure that environmental stewardship is a priority for our government,” he said.
The NDP critic for the environment, Cathy Sproule, said the government is not moving in a good direction with the budgetary cuts to climate change programs.
“Clearly, there is a decline in financial support for environmental protections, and I am very unhappy about that … particularly in the area of climate change,” she said. “There’s a lot we need to learn on our side, but also this government is just not doing its research on climate change.”
Other members of the NDP are also not impressed with the cuts to environment. NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said this budget is a disappointment for the people of Saskatchewan who care about the environment.
“It just doesn’t make sense to be cutting initiatives to stem climate change,” he said.
Meanwhile, the budget provides some additional spendingg in the form of a $500,000 increase to the Multi- material Waste Recycling Program, a 4.5 per cent increase to SARCAN, and $800,000 of funding to the multi-species action plan, boreal caribou research, and abandoned site assessment. Sproule feels these programs are distractions from larger concerns, however.
“I think that’s just tinkering with the edges. There’s no meaningful approach to protecting our environment there,” she said.
Wotherspoon recognizes the good of these increases, but says it’s not enough.
“Those programs have merit, but we have to have meaningful action on climate change, and a cut budget doesn’t cut it,” he said.
Environmentalist Jim Elliott is concerned about these decisions to cut from climate change funding, and also feels the additional programs are not targeting the issues of climate change in the province.
“The environmental protection needs to be increased. The little bit of additions don’t deal with the broader impact of climate change,” he said.