For 34 years, the Canadian Environmental Network (CEN) assisted the federal government in facilitating public consultation. Environment Canada promised core funding to CEN early this year so that CEN could continue working with its 640-member network. Without those funds, CEN is now on the verge of closing its doors.
The Government of Canada announced Thursday that there will be no more funding for the Canadian Environmental Network (CEN). For more than three decades, CEN facilitated consultation between government and environmentalists on a wide range of environmental policies and programs.
CEN's links to 640 nonprofit organizations and its caucuses on agriculture, energy, biodiversity, mining, toxics, water and fisheries, and other topics, once helped to facilitate a healthy flow of information between policy-makers and the general public.
Minister Kent's office defends the decision to cut CEN funding, telling the media that web-based consultation will replace CEN.
Even as the government is cutting consultation programs on environment and science, it is beefing up consultation efforts and strengthening its ties to corporations that need government approval to pollute. It created the Major Projects Management Office in 2007 to be more responsive to industry's needs.
"There's a shocking double standard here," says Waterkeeper Mark Mattson. "When it comes to public consultation, the government leaves people to fend for themselves and calls it efficiency. When it comes to private consultation, the government creates a whole new department to serve industry and calls it transparency."
"The price for lop-sided consultation is going to be air quality problems, water quality problems, and the loss of precious wild spaces," says Mattson.
CEN is encouraging Environment Canada to reconsider its decision and renew their partnership. In the meantime, the group says that it will be forced to lay off staff and close its doors until new funding can be found.