Federal budget makes welcome investments in a fair, sustainable future for Canada, but large gaps remain on efficiency and supports for workers and low-income individuals.
On Tuesday, March 28, the Canadian government released its 2023-24 Federal Budget. The Ecology Action Centre welcomes significant investments that will play a crucial role in creating a clean, affordable and reliable energy grid, as well as supports to help Canada’s fisheries and coastal communities adapt to a rapidly changing ocean.
We are particularly pleased to see additional funding in the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program (3 billion by 2035), an extension of the Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit – worth $6.3 billion over four years, and up to $25.7 billion by 2035 – to include connecting power grids across provinces. This investment will help facilitate the sharing of excess wind and solar power between provinces and provide connection to baseload power in provinces that have significant hydroelectric resources.
The budget also contained important funding for wind and solar development, as well as a commitment to advance the Atlantic Loop, both of which are crucial to decarbonizing Nova Scotia’s electricity grid and enabling a coal phase out in the province.
We are generally supportive of the Investment Tax Credit for Clean Technology Manufacturing; however, we are concerned at the absence of any mention of the principal of free, prior and informed consent, which is embedded in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This principle must apply to any mineral claims resulting from attempts by the Government of Canada to generate demand for Canadian critical minerals. Canada can and should prioritize the implementation of UNDRIP over any attempts to accelerate demand for mineral resources, including those necessary for the production of electric vehicles. Generating increased demand for such resources without the implementation of UNDRIP would represent a continuation of extractive colonialist practices designed to disenfranchise Indigenous peoples in Canada.
The EAC also applauds the inclusion of stipulations that would require provinces to provide a plan for lowering energy bills and achieving a net-zero energy grid by 2035 in order to access additional funding. This stipulation is, however, the only substantial energy equity piece in the budget, and we are disappointed by the glaring lack of new investments in energy efficiency, and support for low-income Canadians. The burden of a clean energy transition must not fall on those who are already struggling, and government must spend what is needed to support Canadians and their families.
There is also no mention of demand-side management, or investment in ensuring employment equity for new jobs in energy—a missed opportunity to address employment gaps for newcomer, racialized and Indigenous communities.
Fisheries and coastal communities
The 2023-24 budget provides much needed investments to help our fisheries and coastal communities adapt to a rapidly changing ocean.
We are happy to see the reopening of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Clean Technology Adoption Program (FACTAP), which will help support harvesters that want to adopt lower impact techniques and practices. However, given the immense potential for the creation of good, sustainable jobs in this sector, we would have liked to see a higher investment in FACTAP than the $5 million provided in Tuesday’s budget.
Another marine highlight is the renewal of Canada’s Whale Program, which will mean support for crab and lobster harvesters to adapt to shifting right whale migration routes and switch to gear designed to reduce entanglements. This will help support the adaptation of Atlantic Canada’s most valuable fisheries and recognizes the importance of prioritizing biodiversity recovery.
Even more encouraging is the announcement of $135 million in funding for the core work necessary to implement requirements under the Fisheries Act. This investment is critical in order to address the increasing complexity of oceans management in a rapidly changing environment and to rebuild a healthy, abundant ocean. It will support sustainable ocean livelihoods in fisheries, aquaculture, marine research, tourism and, ultimately, sustainable food security and prosperous coastal communities.
We are pleased to see that the federal government has also proposed $85.1 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $0.4 million in remaining amortization and $21 million ongoing thereafter, to support the creation of the Canada Water Agency. This is an important first step in addressing freshwater protection and water management efforts that are necessary to ensure a just and sustainable future. In addition, this proposal will be an important contribution to helping achieve the goals outlined in the Global Biodiversity Framework which Canada committed to at the United Nations’ NatureCOP in Montreal last year. We look forward to the government’s introduction of legislation that will fully establish the Canada Water Agency as a standalone entity by the end of 2023.
Overall, the EAC is encouraged by the 2023-24 federal budget, but concerns remain over gaps in energy efficiency, affordability and support for workers and at-risk communities. Although this budget provides a solid foundation of investments, it fails to address progressive tactics that are proven and crucial for implementing a successful transition to a fair and sustainable economy.
We hope that the federal government will use this budget as a starting point, and work to ensure further investments in a just transition that leaves no one behind.