Even when it sets out to fund clean technology, the Canadian government can’t seem to leave behind its default commitment to boosting the country’s fossil industry. After Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced C$26.3 million in new cleantech funding last week, a sharp-eyed Energy Mix reader pointed out that one of the largest single investments was destined to support a new tar sands/oil sands production process.
When Bains made his announcement, just 24 hours after Finance Minister Bill Morneau confirmed the government’s decision to buy the Kinder Morgan pipeline, The Mix pointed out  that Ottawa’s cleantech generosity amounted to just 0.58% of the pipeline’s $4.5-billion purchase price (construction and risk management extra ). But Patrick DeRochie of Toronto-based Environmental Defence noted that the $10 million to Calgary-based MEG Energy Corporation fell outside the definition that most people attach to cleantech.
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“It’s nice to see that the federal government is investing in clean technology, but it shouldn’t be using public money to make a dirty product a little bit less dirty,” DeRochie told The Mix. “Fossil fuel companies can either clean up their act on their own dime or accept the fact that low-carbon alternatives already cost less and make more sense for the economy and the environment.”
He added that “just because a fossil fuel subsidy is dressed up as an investment in clean tech doesn’t mean this isn’t public money going to carbon polluters. It works against the federal commitment to climate action and carbon pricing. It’s like putting a tax on cigarettes, and then giving money to tobacco companies to produce more cigarettes.”
Bains spokesperson Karl Sasseville responded by email that Sustainable Development Technology Canada “funds projects that will provide significant economic and environmental benefit to Canadians. SDTC conducts a rigorous screening process and ongoing evaluations on every project, oil sands or otherwise. MEG Energy Corporation (MEG) is an Alberta company that is demonstrating a new technology that will reduce GHG emissions and water consumption related to in situ bitumen production at a lower cost than existing technologies.”
In his speech last Wednesday, Bains stated that “just like yesterday’s announcement on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, today’s announcement on clean technology is yet another demonstration that the economy and the environment go hand in hand. That has always been our government’s vision, and it remains the case today.” He added: “I can’t wait to see the discoveries these companies advance and the work they do in the field of clean technology.”