Creating sustainable solutions is like getting a triple-letter score in Scrabble. You are strategically making choices that give you triple benefits in the environment, economy, and health. When I went cruising through all 343 pages of the 2009 federal budget, I was thinking there are some of those 60 pointer ideas missing.
Some of the topics that I looked for included energy efficiency and security, renewable energy, drinking and waste water, sustainable transportation, biodiversity, green buildings, waste and emissions, and sustainable procurement.
I also had an eye out for strategic investment in communities that need it most. In the budget, there are some hopeful mentions in areas such as First Nations drinking and waste water infrastructure, contaminated sites, energy efficiency in homes, and sustainable transportation.
For me, one of the major themes was the missing examples.
In the brackets beside clean energy funds, I couldn’t find a mention of renewable energy. This is a perfect time to invest in renewables — such as solar and wind — to help bring down energy costs and create home-grown manufacturing and trade jobs.
I fear Canada will lose out on the economic, ecological, and energy security advantage of renewables without initial strong investment and policy signals from government.
On the biodiversity front, restorative forestry would help to capture greenhouse gases and enhance native biodiversity to support longer-term sustainable forest management and species recovery.
Restorative forestry could help to restore cultural values associated with our forests and be a good employment strategy across the country.
Active transportation infrastructure in urban and rural areas was not highlighted. Active transportation when you walk or bicycle to work, for example —- is a clear triple benefit: it cuts air pollutants, saves you money, and gets you fit.
With the government investing wads of money to help the economy, now is the perfect time to strengthen government procurement policies to maximize sustainability outcomes.
Finally, under green infrastructure, focused programs and policies on obtaining energy efficiency in institutional and commercial sectors is gold.
Energy efficiency can save up to 30 per cent or more on heat and electricity bills.
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. When programs and polices get rolled out, it is here where criteria will shape funding investment. My hope would be that some of these examples will appear there.
You can check out the budget for yourself at www.budget.gc.ca.