In Canada’s Fall Economic Statement, a Commitment to Green but Where’s the Blue?

Yesterday, the federal government released their much-anticipated fall economic statement, the first glimpse at how the public purse will be used to make the commitments made in their September Throne Speech come to fruition (or not).

The statement identifies its intent to lay a foundation for a “green recovery” that ushers in a more sustainable and inclusive economy, with “climate action at the heart of its plan to create a million jobs.” This is good news, and it’s nice to see a firm commitment to meeting the Paris Accord targets of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. All in all, the government plans to spend $4.7 billion over the next five years to: retrofit homes, invest in zero emission vehicles and infrastructure, and incentivize new/protect existing nature-based climate solutions (trees, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, etc.) $1.6B over 5 years is earmarked for these nature-based solutions—$344M for “climate smart ecosystems” wetlands, grasslands and peatlands and $1.3B to plant 2 billion trees. 

The government also mapped out its intention to spend $1.5B between 2020-2026 to support water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities and another $1.2B on other infrastructure projects (however, $1.1B had already been dedicated to these purposes, so the net new spending for infrastructure projects in First Nations communities over 5 years is $1.6B). 

Unfortunately, other than some new spending to support the ongoing commitment to improved water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities, the economic statement makes scant mention of water. 

Although the government committed to creating a Canada Water Agency in its Throne Speech, this is not mentioned at all in the economic statement. No spending or stimulus for watershed jobs is included. And although we are happy to see funding for nature-based solutions, it is unclear whether this funding would also include Natural Infrastructure like rain gardens, green roofs, fish-friendly flood infrastructure, riparian zones, pervious pavements, etc. Natural infrastructure is crucial to freshwater health in both urban and rural environments, and while wetlands, grasslands and peatlands are a big part of this puzzle, there are many other pieces that need to be included! 

So, this means we have a window of opportunity between now and when the 2021-2022 budget will be released in spring 2021 to make sure that commitments that safeguard freshwater health are more explicitly taken into account and adequately funded. We’re working to rally as many freshwater champions around this as possible. Please help out by sending a letter to your MP and the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change and Finance and share this action with your family and friends!