Opinion rolls in on Budget 2012

The resource sector liked it and the environmentalists were less keen on Budget 2012.

National Post columnist Peter O'Neil said the budget tossed roses to Western Canada’s natural resource-based economy and lobbed a political grenade at the environmental movement:

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a long-promised blueprint to streamline the environmental review process, and also proposed changes to Employment Insurance, the immigration system, and aboriginal education designed to increase the labour supply to booming sectors, such as B.C.’s burgeoning natural gas industry and Alberta’s potent oilsands sector.

The Wilderness Committee said that it will damage the environmental process:

The changes to the environmental assessment process explicitly aim to help speed up approval of tar sands pipelines like the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This will put the Canadian people at increased risk of oil spills, polluted rivers and fish kills, as well as lost wildlife.

“Energy giant Kinder Morgan had said they would formally submit their application to the National Energy Board to twin their tar sands pipeline by the end of this month, but now they’ve delayed,” said Ben West, the Wilderness Committee's Healthy Communities Campaigner. “It seems to me that Kinder Morgan could be waiting to take advantage of a weakened review process,” said West.

Mining Watch aimed its criticism at the government's cancellation of a federal program that funded training for Aboriginal peoples:

MiningWatch Canada is very disappointed to see the end of an important federal program that funded training for Aboriginal peoples across Canada. The Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership Program (ASEP) was not specific to the mineral sector but many of the projects that received funding focussed on the natural resources sectors and mining in particular.

Devon Page, executive director of EcoJustice, said changes to the environmental assessment process will result in less oversight:

From coast-to-coast, concerned Canadians — including doctors, First Nations, hunters, scientists, and even former Conservative ministers — are all saying the same thing: It’s the role of the federal government to protect the environment we all depend on. It is not the role of government to use environmental laws to rush approvals and promote select industries at all costs.

The Mining Association of Canada was generally happy, but wanted more tax relief:

"Today's budget will help expedite over $140 billion in new investment in Canada's mining sector. Canada is in global competition for mining investment and an effective and efficient regulatory regime can provide a competitive advantage over other jurisdictions," stated Pierre Gratton, MAC's President and CEO. "Legislative reforms announced in today's budget promise to modernize Canada's environmental review and permitting processes. This will accelerate investment, job growth and enhance Canada's international competitiveness and position as a mining superpower."

MAC has estimated that mining investment in Canada could total upwards of $140 billion over the next five years. Strong commodity prices driven by growing demand in countries such as China are creating opportunities for new mine development and major mine expansions not seen in many years. Canada's mining sector, long recognized as a global leader, has the capacity to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC) lauded Ottawa for extending the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit and for streamlining environmental assessment:

“We are pleased to see the extension of the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, which stimulates investment in mineral exploration throughout BC and Canada, as well as the federal government’s intention to move to a “one project, one review” process,” stated Gavin C. Dirom, President and CEO of AME BC. “Mineral exploration is the research and development that drives Canada’s successful mining sector, and today’s announcement demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to this critical sector of Canada’s economy.”

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicted improvements to the regulatory process will create more jobs:

“Broad-based regulatory reform is fundamental to attracting investment that creates Canadian jobs, prosperity and economic growth,” said Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers President Dave Collyer. “The government’s plan will improve the timeliness and efficiency of the decision-making process while the regulatory scrutiny that Canadians expect remains intact.”