Government spending on environmental protection is an important measure of the public’s commitment to maintaining the quality of the environment. Governments spend money on behalf of their citizens in response to the public’s demand for protection of the environment and restoration of past damage to it.
Statistics Canada measures several categories of government environmental protection expenditures (see, e.g. this link):
- solid waste management
- pollution abatement
- wastewater management
- protection of biodiversity and landscape, and
- other environmental protection.
While spending in all of these categories is clearly important, of them, protection of biodiversity and landscape is most closely related to the winning condition of creating a restoration economy. Under protection of biodiversity and landscape, Statistics Canada’s figures reveal how much governments spend on:
- activities relating to the protection of fauna and flora
- the protection of habitats (including the management of natural parks and reserves), and
- the protection and rehabilitation of landscapes (including abandoned mine sites) for their aesthetic value.
Though not strictly speaking a measure of restoration, spending on biodiversity and landscape protection clearly reflects Canadians’ commitment to preserving ecosystem quality and, where it has been degraded, to its restoration. Since the figures are compiled by Statistics Canada, they have the great advantage of being compiled comparably for all jurisdictions within the country (from municipalities to the federal government). In addition, data compiled by Statistics Canada will be comparable with those compiled for other countries. Another advantage is that Statistics Canada can be counted on to continue compiling the data in the future and to do so in a way that ensures comparability over time. All of this is of great value when attempting to assess trends over time.
In addition to measuring government spending on environmental protection, Statistics Canada also measures government spending on a wide range of other activities. Among these is spending on fuel and energy programs, including:
- administration of fuel and energy programs
- conservation, discovery, development and rationalized exploitation of fuel and energy resources
- supervision and regulation of the extraction, processing, distribution and use of fuel and energy resources
- production and dissemination of general information, technical documentation and statistics on fuel and energy affairs, and
- grants, loans or subsidies to support the fuel and energy industry.
Spending on the above provides useful context for spending on biodiversity and landscape protection, since they – in many ways – are opposite sides of the same government coin. Spending on fuel and energy programs represents government support for activities that seek to exploit the environment for its goods and services, while spending on biodiversity and landscape protection represents support for the maintenance of those goods and services.
When considering data on spending, it is important to recognize that we cannot simply look at annual expenditures and compare them over time. Doing so would give a misleading picture of changing commitment to public concerns – whether they be environmental or economic, since expenditures will tend to grow over time simply because prices in general tend to grow. To get a clear picture of changing levels of commitment, then, the effect of inflation first has to be taken out of the figures. It is helpful as well to go one step further and eliminate the effect of a growing population, since – other things being equal – more people means a bigger economy and a bigger economy means more government expenditure. For these reasons, Statistics Canada’s figures on government spending have been adjusted for use here to take account of both price increases and population growth.
Last updated December 2019