Finding a green lining in the federal election
This election is more about cutting deficits than carbon emissions.
In the final weeks of our latest federal election campaign, party leaders are talking up the economy, health care and gas prices. Oh, and phantom political coalitions and strategic voting, too.
Compared to the last election, environmental issues just don't seem to have the same cachet.
In the lead-up to the 2008 vote, for instance, pundits predicted a "climate crisis" election.
Then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion staked his campaign on a controversial Green Shift plan, which included a carbon tax. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May parlayed a wave of public outrage into a spot in the federal election debates. Every political party had something to say about climate change.
This time around, you won't find a carbon tax pitch anywhere other than the Green Party platform.
It hasn't been the greenest-tinged campaign on record — but each major party has a few interesting environmental pitches for voters to consider.
The Sierra Club of Canada put together its own report card on the eco-platforms of the major political parties. You can check it out at www.sierraclub.ca.
For local flavour, the Green Team sought out federal St. Catharines riding candidates for their thoughts on the most important environmental issues in this election.
Rick Dykstra (Conservative):
Top party issue(s): International co-operation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions; reducing emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020; reintroducing eco-energy retrofit program for another year.
Top local issue: Cleanup of local brownfield sites, such as the lead-contaminated former shooting range on Glendale Ave. "The (Glendale) cleanup was the single largest environmental cleanup in the history of our city. It added 14 hectares of residential land to the city's diminishing supply. I consider it one of the top highlights of my five years as the MP."
Thoughts on Sierra Club grade (F): "When I review their report, they make some good recommendations and points, but what they do not take into account is how economic factors impact how we must step forward on the environment. The economy and the environment must be considered in tandem. Balancing economic realities with environmental responsibilities may not be in the Sierra Club's best interest, but it is in the best interests of people from my community."
Andrew Gill (Liberal):
Top party issue(s): Tax incentives to promote investment in green manufacturing technologies and a green renovation tax credit; quadruple Canada's renewable energy production by 2017; implement a cap and trade system similar to the successful programs already operating in Europe.
He said the party's permanent green renovation tax credit will "help Canadians protect the environment, fight climate change and save money.… Our goal is to help Canadian families retrofit over one million homes by 2017."
Top local issue: Protecting the Great Lakes by developing a Canadian freshwater strategy.
Thoughts on Sierra Club grade (C-): "The Sierra Club gives our party good marks in many areas for our comprehensive environmental platform, but it is disappointing that they are so negative about our plans for cleaner oilsands development and nuclear power. We believe the clean oilsands and safe nuclear power will play an important part of our energy programs.
Jennifer Mooradian (Green)
Top party issue(s): Sustainability in Canada's economy and use of resources. "We have to look at a tax shift; we have to talk about a carbon tax. That clearly didn't go over well in 2008 for the Liberals, but it wasn't explained well, either. We want people to understand our goal is to make businesses more efficient, and therefore more productive and profitable.… Our thinking is, we're giving businesses incentives to be more efficient."
Top local issue: Transportation. "We have issues properly linking this region and we have issues linking our country.… There is a role for the federal government to play in improving transit, and it includes funding municipalities differently."
Thoughts on Sierra Club grade (A): "It feels good, obviously, because I respect what the Sierra Club does.... We obviously have a history there." (Elizabeth May was the founding director of the Sierra Club of Canada) ."I hope it helps … but I'm not sure how much (the report card) resonates with the public."
Mike Williams (NDP)
Top party issue(s): Tackling climate change by adopting the Climate Change Accountability Act; ensuring Canada becomes a world leader in renewable energy; strengthening public transit.
Top local issue: Drinking water safety. "I get very nervous when I read about a private nuclear generator such as Bruce Power applying to ship antiquated radioactive steam generators to Sweden through the Welland Canal. Despite the assurances of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that the level of radioactive contamination is very low, I cannot help but feel that an accident involving a shipment of this nature could pose a significant environmental and public health risk."
Thoughts on Sierra Club grade (C+): "I am pleased that the NDP is ranked second only to the Green Party. In my opinion no one should be surprised that the Green Party came out on top because they are seen by most people, right or wrong, as a one-issue party. The NDP has a practical, workable plan that doesn't overshadow the rest of our entire platform to give your family a break and fix Ottawa so it gets back on track working for you, not the big oil companies and the banks."
Factbox: a sampling of green promises from your major parties:
- a $400-million reintroduction of eco-energy retrofit program;
- support for huge Lower Churchill hydro-power project in Labrador;
- promoting clean energy technologies in aboriginal and northern communities.
- new, permanent Green Renovation Tax credit to retrofit homes;
- national freshwater strategy;
- more "sustainable" oilsands development in Alberta.
- eliminate government subsidies for the oilsands in Alberta;
- cap and trade system to control greenhouse gases;
- reintroduce Climate Change Accountability Act.
- introduce "revenue-neutral" carbon pricing system;
- create a "toxic tax;"
- end government subsidies for nuclear, fossil fuel industries.