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 December 12, 2013
Canada: Spending on climate change 'pathetic.'

 Environment Canada has spent at least $331,389 to develop longawaited oil and gas regulations that are still under development, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq says in a newly released document tabled in Parliament.

The spending includes about $187,000 in payments for consultants that helped the department purchase oil and gas industry information, technological support as well as advice on how to proceed with the regulations that don't yet exist.

Liberal environment critic John McKay suggested Aglukkaq's numbers confirm that the regulations aren't a government priority.

"This is a pathetic sum of money to spend on arguably the most important regulatory initiative that this government will spend in its entire mandate," McKay said.

"It speaks to the absence of activity on this file, and that those who are complaining about the government not being serious about greenhouse gas regulations are absolutely right."

Firms consulted include Navius Research Inc., a Vancouver-based firm that focuses on climate-change policies and has done extensive research into options for putting a price on carbon pollution, such as a carbon tax.

Environment Canada said it also consulted three other firms, Systematic Solutions Inc., Baker and O'Brien Inc., Kimacal Energy Strategies Ltd. as well as Benoit Laplante, an environmental economist and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Public Policy.

The spending also includes about $135,680 in travel costs, $4,772 for room rentals and related hospitality, and $3,643 for overtime wages, Aglukkaq said in the document, prepared in response to questions raised by Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan, a scientist who contributed to reviews of scientific literature by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

McKay noted the absence of oil and gas regulations is also threatening industrial growth for Canadian companies that are counting on expanded pipeline routes for new market access, while fighting against climatechange policies that could limit their markets in jurisdictions such as California and Europe.

He suggested that the government could help speed up the regulatory process by hiring experienced negotiators to counter resistance from industry to new rules.

Successive Conservative environment ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government have pledged to deliver a plan to crack down on pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from industrial activity, but all have failed to meet their own deadlines to introduce a plan for the oil and gas sector.

On the international stage, after being criticized in 2012 for announcing it would withdraw from a climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the government's then-climate change ambassador, Guy Saint-Jacques, said Canada was doing its part to reduce the heat-trapping emissions contributing to global warming by "working towards draft regulations for 2013" for oil and gas companies.

An Environment Canada report on its plans and priorities for 2012-13 said it would be able to finalize some of the oil and gas regulations in 2012, estimating it would spend $17.8 million between 2011 to 2016 on the rules for this sector, including $6.24 million in 2012-13.

The department was not able to confirm Wednesday whether it had spent all of this money as planned in 2012-13.

Environment Canada has created a joint committee with the Alberta government and oil and gas industry representatives to develop the new regulations, and had proposed several options to move forward.