RCEN cuts: not just about jobs

Our Canada World Youth intern, Justin Chisholm, analyzes the recent cuts to the Canadian Environmental Network.  

Minister of Environment Hon. Peter Kent and the federal government have severed a thirty-four year relationship with the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN), an institution structured around strong democracy, advocating for the interests of all Canadians and 640 environmental groups. Environment Canada gave no indication that they would cut funding and refuse to renew RCEN’s $547,000 budget for 2011-2012 until the network received a letter last Thursday.

The announced termination of all federal funding comes as the government stated that it wants to “review its spending to make sure it’s getting value for money.” The Minister is making a losing trade-off, saving $547 000 annually in exchange for an institution that helped give us the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The RCEN is being replaced by an online consultation service run through the simplicity that is the federal government’s website. The service will aim to represent the environmental concerns of all Canadians and 640 environmental groups through online discussion and comments. Responding to the plan, Maggie Paquet, Member of the Board for RCEN, posed legitimate concerns: Who is going to collate all of the comments? Who will sift through the submissions to determine which are viable? Hopefully Environment Canada, using its newly found savings, plans to hire Mark Zuckerberg to reinforce the servers because in the times that we’re facing, with the Harper dubbed “no brainer” that’s more of an environmental dagger XL Keystone Pipeline and various other environmental movements, a web based consultation system just won’t do when dealing with the web traffic of millions of Canadians who are moving toward a greener future.

Funding cuts have crippled the national RCEN and have created serious challenges for its many regional networks. With the national network closing its doors it’s not just jobs that have been sacrificed. The scope of democratic approach to environmental policymaking and the ability to hold the government accountable has been refined to nothing more than a kaleidoscope of colourful pictures of the tar sands. Hopeful that Environment Canada understands the gravity of this decision, we are standing firm that the Government of Canada has made a mistake.

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