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BUDGET 2018: Whales, wings and wetlands, oh my - feds boost conservation funding

Researchers examine one of the North Atlantic right whales that have died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year. 
(MARINE ANIMAL RESPONSE SOCIETY / File)
Researchers examine one of the North Atlantic right whales that have died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year. (MARINE ANIMAL RESPONSE SOCIETY / File)

OTTAWA - The call of the wild is echoing through Tuesday's federal budget, with hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to buying and protecting private land and other conservation efforts.

The funding reflects the government's commitment to safeguard at least 17 per cent of Canadian land and inland waters by 2020, including migratory bird territory.

The Liberals' latest budget commits $500 million to a nature fund to protect sensitive ecosystems, expand species protection and help Indigenous groups play a role in conservation efforts. The initiative is expected to leverage an additional $500 million from the private sector and other levels of government.

“Canada is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It's up to all of us to help keep it that way,” Morneau said in his speech to the House of Commons.

Money for the nature fund comes from a larger five-year investment of $1.3-billion that the budget describes as “one of the most significant investments in nature conservation in Canadian history.”

Overall story: Liberals champion their values in 2018 budget aimed at long-term vision

The conservation funding drowns out any renewed efforts to combat climate change, though reference is made to the federal government's pending plans to price carbon pollution, to be imposed on any province and territory that fails to bring in an equivalent system before the end of the year.

Any money collected from the federal price on carbon pollution will go back to the province or territory where it was collected. The budget promises $109 million over the next five years to help Environment Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to enforce that pledge.

The budget also proposes extending existing tax benefits for the generation and use of clean energy - provisions that are set to expire in 2020.

An additional $167 million over five years will go toward the research and preservation of endangered whale species, including southern resident orcas, North Atlantic right whales and belugas in the St. Lawrence estuary.

“Whales are vital to healthy marine ecosystems,” the budget reads.

Canada's forecasting and severe weather warning systems will also see $40 million over the next five years as part of the government's move to buttress the country against an expected jump in extreme weather as a result of climate change.

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