People passionate about nature

Nature Manitoba calls for reestablishment of funding for Canadian Environmental Network

On October 13, 2011, Environment Canada informed the Canadian Environment Network that funding for the organization, which is the national coordinating body for hundreds of environmental groups across the country, would be immediately terminated with no explanation given. Nature Manitoba is one of the organizations which will be impacted by this decision, and the following letter was sent to Shelly Glover, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

October 19, 2011

Dear Ms. Glover,

I am writing to you as President of Nature Manitoba, the oldest and largest environmental group in the province. I am also writing as one of your St. Boniface constituents.

I am contacting you to express my sincere hope that you will do all that is in your power to help re-establish government support for the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN). On October 13, 2011, Environment Canada informed the RCEN that its funding for 2011/2012 was being cut. Neither Environment Minister Peter Kent nor his departmental officials have explained why they are not delivering on their promise of continued core funding for the Network, which comprises its key environmental constituency across Canada.

Environmental challenges know no political boundaries. No matter what party forms government, we must not lose sight of the necessity for strong, dependable, and continued core support from Environment Canada to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers working through their environmental groups in Canadian communities, large and small—in both official languages. The RCEN is a unique and internationally respected network of national and community-based organisations. It is seen as a model by environmental groups from many countries.

The more than three-decades-long partnership RCEN has developed with Environment Canada—and which was summarily and unexpectedly cancelled on 13 October—has produced many noteworthy achievements. These include the development of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act; reforms to the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office to create the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in 1987; extensive work on the Green Plan in 1990; and numerous initiatives such as those on toxic substances, including the Chemicals Management Plan and the Comprehensive Air Management System that was endorsed by the CCME in November 2010.

The Canadian Environmental Network is composed of over 640 diverse community organisations among 11 provincial and territorial affiliate networks, urban and rural, and from coast to coast to coast. Its membership accounts for at least 630,000 individuals directly involved through their regional affiliates and groups.

Locally, we depend upon the Manitoba Eco-Network, based in Winnipeg, as an umbrella organization to increase the community's environmental awareness and faciliate connections among over 50 Member Groups in Manitoba.

The RCEN’s democratic delegate selection process has ensured that individuals representing groups from across the country are at the decision-making tables. By bringing representatives from rural and urban communities to participate in developing policies, they provide a full range of expertise (including biologists, planners, educators, lawyers, geologists, social scientists, engineers, chemists, doctors and other health care workers) of people working on the ground and outside government. This uniquely Canadian approach builds trust between the public and government through collaboration and consultation. By bringing diverse stakeholders, including representatives of industry groups, to a common table, they create solutions that would not arise without dialogue. With this process, better policies are developed that have greater legitimacy with the Canadian public.

Last week, the RCEN’s funding was terminated, leaving it with no opportunity to develop transitional funding strategies. As a Canadian, I find it hard to believe that my government would proceed in such a fashion in terminating an organization which, over the 34 years of its existence, has provided Canadians, and the Canadian government, with invaluable services. They have worked co-operatively with Environment Canada and other departments (including DFO, Health Canada, NRCan, Agriculture Canada, and DFAIT, to name a few) resulting in very significant environmental successes.

I fully recognize and respect your government’s attempts to rein in the deficit. But one must be wary of being penny wise and pound foolish. In the grand scheme of things, the level of funding for RCEN is miniscule compared to the invaluable services that it provides. Government departments are asked to look at 5% to 10% savings in their operations. Yet, without warning and with immediate effect, 100% of the funding for the Canadian Environmental Network is withdrawn. I hope you will agree with me that there is something wrong with this picture.

Canada, like other countries, faces more serious environmental challenges than ever, and we need the combined force of the RCEN and federal agencies to meet these challenges.

Roger Turenne,