Millions in new federal funding to curb air pollution are a fraction of spending needed, say advocates. The 2016 budget targeted $345 million in five-year spending to cut air pollution.
“It is good to see the pollution fight, but we are way below what we have to do if we consider greenhouse gas reduction,” said André Belisle, president of l’Association Québécoise De Lutte Contre La Pollution Atmosphérique. “It’s welcome, but if you look at global warming and greenhouse gas emissions we are going to have to do a lot more.”
Finance department documents detailed no regulatory measures to meet emissions targets, but proposed funding “organizations to conduct research on and monitor air pollution sources as well as health and environmental impacts; report to Canadians on air pollution sources; and on local, regional and national air quality.”
Regulators will “develop new policy approaches and regulatory instruments to improve air quality,” the budget said.
The Canadian Medical Association estimates some 21,000 people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. Alberta has the worst air in the country in terms of dust and coarse particulate matter, according to Health Canada research.
The health department in a 2015 notice acknowledged air pollution is a known killer among city-dwellers, but concluded more research is needed: “Air pollution could make people sick, which leads to hospitalization, and thus mortality and morbidity attributable to air pollutants can be investigated together.” Results of the research may not be released till 2018.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation in 2014 also warned Canada’s airborne dioxins were higher in some regions in Canada than in Mexico. Measurement was based on data from North American ambient air monitoring networks, including Canadian sites examined between 2008 and 2011.
“The four-year period of overlapping measurement data in Canada and the U.S. show comparable levels at rural sites,” the report concluded. “Concentrations at Mexican rural sites were lower by a factor of about 10 than the corresponding Canadian measurements.”
In total the federal budget proposes to spend $3.4 million over five years on climate change and air pollution initiatives, including money towards protecting environmental areas, and environmental assessments.
By Kaven Baker-Voakes