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Hill Dispatches: Dollars for polluting industry; cuts for science and environmentalists

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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." This was prudent fiscal management in these tough times, the government said. The Environment Department is seeking, it explained in the letter, "to allocate its resources in the most efficient and cost effective manner to ensure a safe, clean and sustainable environment for Canadians."

Ironically, yesterday's news also carried a story about another "environmental" initiative, which the government deemed worthy of generous support: the "Canada School of Energy and Environment," based in Calgary. That organization received $15 million from the federal government and a good part of its vocation has been, in the words of Postmedia News, "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."

So, maybe, the notion that profitable resource companies don't need public funds to support their advocacy is wrong. Maybe they are the needy ones, not the environmental movement.

The Calgary-based "School" was in the news, yesterday, because of the shenanigans of its former executive director (and former Harper staffer) Bruce Carson. It seems that Carson used thousands of the school's public dollars for his own private purposes. The organization has managed to recover some of that money, by withholding payments it owed Carson; but there is still about fifteen thousand missing, and they have given up on that.

The current Chairman of the school, Robert Turner, now says that trying to recover that remaining money: ". . .would not do the school one bit of good." Whatever that means...

The troubling part of all this is not that a Conservative-connected person gets to keep money he inappropriately used for personal purposes. That is a minor, mini-scandal, at best.

What is more scandalous is that the government 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.

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