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The budget, the environment and infrastructure

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Here's the text of yesterday's budget speech.

The word "environment" appears a grand total of twice:

"We will invest new funds over the next five years to help Canadian farmers to innovate, to increase competitiveness, and to achieve greater environmental sustainability...

And to help all Canadian industries to reduce their impact on the environment, we will establish a new Clean Energy Fund.

We expect this funding will generate more than $2.5-billion in investments such as carbon capture and storage, over the next five years."

To be fair, "green" is also mentioned once.

"And we will provide $1-billion for a Green Infrastructure Fund to support projects such as sustainable energy."

"Sustainable energy"? What is that? "Carbon capture and storage"? The conservatives panacea for global warming. What about renewable energy? One wind project in PEI. What about improving the energy grid? I guess that infrastructure doesn't count. Solar power? Not a mention. Geo-thermal. Nope. Reducing greenhouse gases? Cap and trade? Not in this budget. Global warming or climate change? Must not be a problem because it's not mentioned even once.

So, the Harper solution to the climate crisis is to spend up to $200 million a year to support unproven and risky carbon capture technology that will take 10 years or more to develop (and may still not work) in order to allow the tar sands and other coal-fired plants to continue unabated. This is more delaying because Harper, deep in his heart, does not believe greenhouse gases are a problem -- at least not a problem that government should take responsibility for.

A central problem with the budget is its basic assumption that the purpose of building infrastructure is to create jobs. Jobs are a positive product of infrastructure development but they should not be framed as the main the reason for it. Isn't the purpose of building infrastructure -- both physical and social -- to collectively improve our society by making services and programs available to the public?

It would be great to hear the opposition parties articulate a pro-public service position and to challenge Harper's philosophical underpinnings -- defining the kind of society that we want and then fighting for it. This is a sign of just how deeply neo-conservative/neo-liberal policies have embedded themselves in the public discourse.

Harper's positioning of infrastructure development as a "necessary evil" to fight the recession is justification for all the years of infrastructure neglect. We should not buy into the underlying assumptions -- particularly that good times are not the time to build infrastructure but a time for trickle-down, voodoo tax cuts.

This is not to say that the opposition parties don't make some good points about the deficiencies of the budget including the environment but talk is cheap. Ignatieff's decision to prop up Harper does not bode well for the environment.

This budget and government should be defeated but that does not appear to be in the cards.

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