Almost $150 million in vaunted oceans protection funding not spent

The Liberals have touted their $1.5-billion oceans protection plan as “the largest investment ever made to protect Canada's coasts and waterways” – including efforts to mitigate the potential environmental damage from the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Almost $150 million allocated to help protect Canada’s oceans has gone unspent by the Trudeau government over the past two years.

The Liberals have touted their $1.5-billion oceans protection plan as “the largest investment ever made to protect Canada's coasts and waterways” – including efforts to mitigate the potential environmental damage from the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The pipeline is to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to the British Columbia coast for export to overseas markets, resulting in as much as a six-fold increase in tanker traffic and increasing the risk of oil spills and damage to marine life, particularly whales.

But in response to a written question tabled in the House of Commons by NDP fisheries critic Gord Johns about how the ocean protections plan funding has been spent so far, the government admits millions have not been spent.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says some $85.9 million of its share of the program’s funding has not been spent over the past two years.

Environment Canada says it didn't spend $3.5 million of its share of the funding and Transport Canada says it left $59 million unspent.

Reasons offered for not spending their full allocations vary by department, including delays in capital projects and requests by Indigenous groups for more consultations.

"They've made big promises, they've made promises that Canadians expected they would deliver but, of course, they haven't spent the money,'' Johns said in an interview.

"We're looking at $150 million just over the past two years that they haven't spent and this is in light of them approving the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion ... They’re trying to tell British Columbians and Canadians that they’ve invested in this world-class oceans protection plan but they haven't actually been rolling out the money.”

The government has frequently touted the plan to allay concerns about potential environmental damage from increased tanker traffic.

© 2020 The Canadian Press