Harper announces $252 million "National Conservation Plan"

Two years after the controversial omnibus bills C-35 and C-48 that repealed or weakened significant environmental regulations, the federal government appears to be devoting more resources to environmental conservation. But will it be enough? 

Photo of Prime Minister Harper in New Brunswick with Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq

Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched the government's new National Conservation Plan (NCP), which is aimed at providing a "more coordinated approach" to conservation efforts across the country and "make it easier for citizens living in cities to connect with nature." He said the plan, which was mentioned in the 2013 throne speech, will allow for a more co-ordinated approach to environmental conservation.

The plan would invest $252 million, or an average of $50.4 million per year, over a five-year period (2014 to 2019) for a variety of conservation initiatives. Last month, the government spent around $50 million on phone systems from the NSA.

The Plan would "expand opportunities" for municipalities, environmental interest groups, hunters, landowners and community groups, to take action to protect land, water, and help "connect Canadians to nature". The move comes two years after the 2012 omnibus bills C-38 and C-45, in which the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was repealed and numerous environmental regulations were weakened or removed. Bill C-45, in particular, removed over 99 per cent of Canada's lakes and rivers from federal oversight and allowed First Nations to lease out or surrender reserve lands based on votes taken at a single meeting, rather than a majority vote.

The fund is slated to be used for the following purposes: 

  • Connecting Canadians to nature: leveraging existing successful initiatives to help foster an appreciation for nature and building a “community of stewards” among Canadians of all ages.
  • $100 million over five years to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to secure ecologically sensitive lands

  • $37 million over five years to strengthen marine and coastal conservation

  • $3.2 million over five years to support the development of a complete national inventory of conserved areas in Canada

  • $50 million over five years to restore wetlands

  • $50 million over five years to support voluntary actions to restore and conserve species and their habitats

“Our Government is committed to working closely with Canadians so that together we can provide effective stewardship of Canada’s rich natural heritage for present and future generations," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a news release.

"The National Conservation Plan will...help ensure that Canadian families and visitors can enjoy the beauty of our country from coast to coast to coast for years to come.” 

But the new environmental program has received mixed reactions from environmental advocates.

"Preserving land..without reduce greenhouse gas emissions is public relations, not conservation," Sierra Club executive director John Bennett told Yahoo News. 

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