Pallister government quietly shutters agency responsible for environmental protection programs

Pallister government quietly shutters agency responsible for environmental protection programs

​The Pallister government has quietly shut down the special operating agency responsible for delivering environmental protection programs.

The Opposition NDP sent out a news release Wednesday afternoon denouncing the decision to close Green Manitoba Eco Solutions.

"The Pallister government needs to be open about why it's shutting down this agency," said NDP environment critic Rob Altemeyer in the release. "At a time when it's more important than ever to preserve our environment, is this a sign the government no longer wants to invest in the future of our children?"

Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox said the agency will be folded into her department. She said no full-time workers will be lose their jobs. 

"It is about efficiency," Cox said. 

The agency was launched in 2006 under the former NDP government with a mandate to administer waste programs. 

According to the NDP's release, the agency provided oversight of all 12 of the "Producer Responsibility Organizations" (PRO) that reduce waste from landfill, such as blue boxes, waste oil and electronic waste.

It was also in charge of the WRARS fund, which collects a per-tonne fee at all landfills for garbage disposal and then pays that money back to municipalities (also on a per-tonne basis) when they divert waste from the landfill into composting and recycling programs.

It also has several ongoing contracts with groups such as the Green Action Centre, Compost Winnipeg, and Sustainability Month to promote environmental sustainability and green programs. Cox said all contracts will continue under the umbrella of her department. 

Altemeyer said many of the organizations are now unclear about the status of their current work or what their future work will be. 

"The government has a duty to tell Manitobans what plans are in store for these organizations and whether the programs, contracts, services and reporting requirements that Green [Manitoba] has been doing will continue," Altemeyer said. "The government also has a responsibility to tell Manitobans what plans it has to create more green jobs and reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and to reduce greenhouse emissions."

According to its 2015-16 annual report, Green Manitoba has 12 staff members and spends $2.7 million each year on programming. It also brings in $2.8 million annually in non-government funded revenue through those programs.